The Concealed Handgun Law: Ten Years Later
By Commissioner Jerry Patterson
When the Texas Concealed Handgun Law took effect in 1996, pundits and naysayers predicted anarchy. Any minute, there would surely be mass violence as armed Texas citizens began roving the streets settling arguments with gunfire. Certainly, several proclaimed, within a year there would be blood in the streets as Texas returned to the days of the Wild West.
Ten years later the facts paint a different picture. Texas under the Concealed Handgun Law isn’t the Wild West, but the Mild West. No recurrent shootouts at four-way stops, no blood in the streets. Quite the contrary, Texans are safer than before.
But why are we safer? Why did the fears of the naysayers fail to materialize?
One of the reasons I authored Senate Bill 60, the Concealed Handgun Law, was because I trust my fellow Texans. Contrary to opinions expressed on almost every editorial page across the state, I knew that when law-abiding Texans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms was restored with the passage of S.B. 60, they would exercise good judgment and behave responsibly.
Ten years later, and the statistics continue to prove the point.
Since the passage of the Concealed Handgun Law, the FBI Uniform Crime Report shows an 18% drop in handgun murders, down from 838 in 1995 to 688 in 2004. And a 13% drop in handgun murders per 100,000 population, down from 4.5 murders per 100,000 Texans in 1995 to 3.95 per 100,000 in 2004.
In 2000, on the fifth anniversary of the Concealed Handgun Law, the National Center for Policy Analysis issued a report that indicated Texans with concealed carry permits are far less likely to commit a serious crime than the average citizen.
According to the report, the more than 200,000 Texans licensed to carry a concealed firearm are much more law-abiding than the average person.
The report illustrated that Texans who exercise their right to carry firearms are 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for a violent offense. They are 14 times less likely to be arrested for a non-violent offense. And they are 1.4 times less likely to be arrested for murder.
H. Sterling Burnett, a senior policy analyst at the NCPA and the author of the report, concluded:
“Many predicted that minor incidents would escalate into bloody shootouts if Texas passed a concealed-carry law. That prediction was dead wrong,” Burnett said.
With 247,345 concealed handgun licenses active in Texas as of December 2005, the number of law-abiding licensees has had a positive effect on the crime rate.
Texas Department of Public Safety Uniform Crime Report indicates the overall crime rate in Texas has continued to drop over the past 10 years. In 1997, DPS reported 5,478 crimes per 100,000 Texans, based on a population of 19,355,427 Texans. In 2004, with almost 3 million more Texans, the crime rate is 5,032 per 100,000.
The effect of the Concealed Handgun Law has been so positive, it has converted some of its most outspoken initial critics.
John Holmes, former Harris County district attorney, wrote to me several years after the passage of the law.
“As you know, I was very outspoken in my opposition to the passage of the Concealed Handgun Act. I did not feel that such legislation was in the public interest and presented a clear and present danger to law abiding citizens by placing more handguns on our streets,” Holmes wrote. “Boy was I wrong. Our experience in Harris County, and indeed state-wide, has proven my initial fears absolutely groundless.”
Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, shared this view. “I lobbied against the law in 1993 and 1995 because I thought it would lead to wholesale armed conflict. That hasn't happened,” White told the Dallas Morning News. “All the horror stories I thought would come to pass didn't happen. No bogeyman. I think it's worked out well, and that says good things about the citizens who have permits. I'm a convert.”
To the supporters of individual liberty and the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, this outcome is no surprise. However, the Concealed Handgun Law isn’t just about personal safety. Perhaps even deeper than its roots in constitutional freedom, the Concealed Handgun Law is about trust.
And after ten years, the Concealed Handgun Law is a shining example of what happens when elected officials have faith in their fellow Texans.
The legacy of Senate Bill 60 is grounded in the concept that our government should place its trust in us, not the other way around.
JERRY PATTERSON is the 27th Texas Land Commissioner and author of Senate Bill 60 the Concealed Handgun Law.