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Community members concerned about new “Permitless Carry” law

Participating in the on-line discussion were (L-R) Houston Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite, Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia (a former Harris County Sheriff), and Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Edison Toquica. The public was invited to call in with their views also.

Commissioner Garcia moderates discussion with law enforcement

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia led a discussion last Wednesday, September 1 on the concerns surrounding the new law. The panel consisted of law enforcement officials and domestic violence advocates, among others.

Law enforcement officials want people to make sure they understand the law before doing anything that could put themselves or others in danger.

“Make sure that you understand the law and make sure you get trained to use that weapon,” Harris County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Toquica said.

“With permit-less carry officially going into effect September 1, the state’s record shows loosening weapon restrictions only make living in Texas more dangerous.”

The event was held September 1 which marks the official beginning of legal permit-less public carry of weapons in Texas. Permitless carry allows anyone, including untrained individuals, to purchase a gun and walk the streets without having any experience using a weapon at any time previously in their lives.

The discussion centered around both data (see below), as well as powerful anecdotal stories of how permit-less carry will make Harris County residents less safe. In addition, Garcia listed a partial list of pre-empted actions that cities and counties might previously consider enacting that are now expressly prohibited by state law.

“It’s bad enough that the state is using the notion of ‘safety’ in passing dangerous laws that have proven to make life for Texans more dangerous. They also stop us from taking local measures to address violence,” Commissioner Garcia said in his remarks.

The list of prohibited county government measures Commissioner mentioned includes (but is not limited to) the following:

HARRIS COUNTY CANNOT Mandate safe storage of weapons in vehicles

HARRIS COUNTY CANNOT Ban weapons in public spaces including parks, community centers, libraries, and government facilities (such as the Tax Assessors offices).

HARRIS COUNTY CANNOT Force background checks on weapons purchased in county facilities such as convention spaces

HARRIS COUNTY CANNOT Require licensing

HARRIS COUNTY CANNOT Disallow weapons at performance spaces (such as Wortham Center, Miller Outdoor Theater and Discovery Green)

“It’s clear that we are on our own, Harris County. Texas state leaders, beholden to fears of primary challenges are more concerned with their political future than you being able to go to your kids’ ballgame without fear of being shot,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia as he closed out his remarks.

Representatives from local law enforcement agencies expressed their concern for the new reality that almost anyone they interact with could be carrying a weapon legally.

“When you carry a gun, you are taking on a huge responsibility because you are suddenly capable of taking another life in the blink of an eye. Even with all the training those of us in law enforcement receive, we often make split-second decisions that are second guessed and closely scrutinized,” said Harris County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Edison Toquica, “sometimes, peace officers with the best training still make poor decisions. And those decisions have life-long consequences.

Houston Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite focused his comments on encouraging the public to educate themselves about permit-less carry and remarked that HPD still suggests weapons training, even though that’s no longer required.

“We are asking for gun responsibility so that guns don’t fall into the hands of a criminal,” said Satterwhite.

Area non-profits that are focused on the issue of public safety in attendance included the gun safety group, Moms Demand Action. They focus its efforts on helping businesses keep weapons out of their establishments, should they choose to do so. “We can minimize the impact of this deadly law by helping business owners stop people from carrying loaded handguns with no background check and no safety training in their establishments.”