Texas: Still the Wild West as Far as Guns are Concerned

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You can forget the improving economy, the pundits and the polls. The surest sign that Barack Obama will be re-elected president is that Texans are hoarding guns.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran a big story the other day about how gun sales were exploding, what with everyone afraid that the African-born Muslim socialist was going to get himself elected to another four years in the White House.

“Look who the Republicans are trying to put against Obama,” said DeWayne Irwin, owner of the Cheaper Than Dirt gun store in Forth Worth. “It’s the Keystone Kops and people are getting scared. People are terrified he’s going to get re-elected and then he won’t care about getting votes next time. He’ll just pass whatever legislation he wants.”

I could tell DeWayne that I’ve worked on literally hundreds of congressional campaigns over the last decade, and I can’t remember any Democratic candidate ever polling gun control. But really, if you’re dumb enough to think that Obama will ever be able to pass whatever legislation he wants, then you are probably prone to the delusion that Democrats want to take away your guns. Suffice it to say that no matter how deep your paranoia runs, when they sell Russian-made ammunition for an AK-47 at Wal-Mart, this debate is over, and the gun nuts have won.

In Texas, being a liberal means owning only one firearm, and gun control means using two hands and gently squeezing the trigger. There are enough guns in Texas for every man, woman and child to have two each. Every third NRA member lives here, and about a half million Texans have concealed handgun licenses. But with Obama heading towards re-election, Texans want more. The FBI has been getting about 1 million requests for background checks on people wanting to buy guns every year just from Texas.

It is considered horribly impolite in Texas to mention the recent school shooting in Ohio that left three kids dead. The Star-Telegram story failed to mention it because to do so would open the reporter up to charges of being anti-gun. It is a local custom to observe your First Amendment right only to support the Second Amendment.
In Texas, the only logical response to gun violence is making sure it’s a fair fight. This makes sense to Texans even when it makes no sense. When a mentally ill 22-year-old shot Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others with a legally bought Glock 19, Texas Republicans did not waste a second figuring out how to keep guns away from crazy people.

Instead, some proposed that politicians should be allowed to carry guns wherever they damn well pleased even in designated gun-free zones, such as schools and churches. The idea died not because of the inevitable crossfire but because it would be unfair to those constituents taking fire from both sides. They deserved guns in churches, too.

The problem with gun-free zones such as schools, say some, is that criminals don’t care about the law. Fair point. But when a depressed 19-year-old math major named Colton Tooley shot his AK-47 at the University of Texas in 2010, SWAT teams had the campus locked down within a half hour. While Tooley holed up in the library, police, not knowing if he was alone, searched the backpacks of any student in the area.

Tooley killed himself without hurting anyone else, but that didn’t stop the Texas legislature from demanding that all students be allowed to have guns on campus. Perhaps because some people still look at the UT tower and think of Charles Whitman, that proposal died too.

This is Texas, where you can get around the capitol’s metal detectors with a concealed handgun license and our governor jogs with a Ruger .380. When Rick Perry bragged that he shot a coyote that was threatening his daughter’s puppy, I didn’t hear a blessed Texas soul question the wisdom of politicians exercising with deadly weapons. Instead, everyone kept asking where he put the gun when he jogged in those little nylon shorts. Apparently it’s strapped to his hip with some kind of a jogging holster.

That’s what passes for a fashion accessory in Texas, where guns are always the solution and never the problem.