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Open Carry Law Under Fire

The ability to openly carry a firearm in Texas became law on New Year’s Day. However, the recent shooting of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge have critics looking to revoke the privilege.

“Open carry” gun laws are facing new scrutiny after recent violence in Texas and other states. Michael Dirden, Executive Assistant Chief for the Houston police department, says “time and place” matter when it comes to the Texas open carry gun law.

“Just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” says Dirden.

According to Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, the open carry law in Texas made a tough situation more difficult. As a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally was concluding on July 7, 2016, a gunman opened fire on police killing five officers. Rawlings told CBS’s Face the Nation that police were naturally attracted to protesters carrying guns.

“There were individuals that ran across the gunfire; they were in body-armor, camo gear with rifles slung over their shoulders, so it sure took our eye off the ball for a moment,” said Rawlings.

In Cleveland – site of this week’s Republican Convention – the police union asked Governor John Kasich to temporarily suspend that state’s open carry law. Kasich says, “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested.”

Dirden says that most meetings between Houston police and those carrying guns are civil and usually occur when people call 911. It was a call to police in Baton Rouge, LA that led to a situation in which three officers were killed and three others injured Sunday morning. But Dirden, who joined Houston Matters on Monday, believes there are advantages to open carry laws.

“We know that there is a gun involved,” said Dirden. “There are a lot of us who are a lot more comfortable approaching a situation where we know it’s involved, than walking up to a car and not knowing what’s going on at all.”

In situations where there could be a threat of harm to people, Dirden says police in Houston are required to approach those carrying guns. 

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