Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A week or so ago, as I understand the news, Texas has signed a bill allowing people to carry handguns without a license, background check or training. From what I’ve been reading, there are many states that are similar in allowing open (or conceal) carry without these things. Of course, there are a multitude of opponents to this law, and a multitude of proponents.
It will be interesting to see what happens, but unfortunately, that experiment will come at the cost of lives. The number of mass shootings in our country is on a dramatic rise, with an average of more than 10 such shootings per week in 2021. Also in the news is racial hatred as both Asian and Jewish people are facing increased hate crimes. No doubt, it was the former president’s rhetoric against China in the Covid-19 virus that gave rise to the increase in hatred against Asians, and Israel’s recent military strikes in the Gaza strip that is stoking hatred against the Jewish people. In light of these developments, Texas has dropped its requirements to carry guns.
As I write this, I am playing with my new gun for inspiration. A .22 Ruger Wrangler that I won in a drawing at my gun club. I picked it up earlier this week, and it’s a fun handgun, the closest thing I’ve ever owned that is near the kind of guns they carried in the old west. Of course, being a .22, it’s one of the less deadly guns on the market, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot kill, and I treat it as a deadly device. This gun would not be used in a mass shooting. As a revolver, it only holds six shots at a time, and once spent you have to clear out each of the bullets individually before you can reload it. You may have seen guns like this depicted in old west movies, where the gunman opens a little side door and pops out the shells one at a time, then pushes new ones into it through that same door. It’s a slow process, and yes, people could easily escape or rush you if you tried using this for a mass shooting. But, let’s not make light of this gun. It’s a gun. It’s deadly. I personally use it to shoot targets.
My serious gun, a .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic is what I use to guard my home. I keep a loaded clip in it, but unlike many (probably most) gun owners, I do not keep a round “chambered”. That means that there is not a bullet ready to fire. To use it, I need to pull back the slide to load a round. Many people who carry one chambered will claim that it just takes too much time. I don’t accept that. I know what it’s like to have a gun with a round chambered. It’s thrilling, and a source of pride, to know that all it takes is one squeeze of the trigger and the fun begins. Yes, I’m a man. But I’m also an intelligent man. It takes less than a second to chamber, and if I need to defend my house, I’ll be spending more time looking for cover in a strategic spot. If I carried it outside, and saw somebody with a gun, I would still be running for a safe vantage point before taking aim. The time to load a gun is inconsequential, but the danger of accidental discharge is nearly zero as I carry it, but very high with one in the chamber.
And this is kind of the point. If we’re honest, we do not know the impact this law will have on mass shootings. There is a good chance that they will decrease with so many people choosing to carry. But that’s not the only issue. With hatred increasing against races, or even the opposite political party, having so many carrying guns also increases the chance of impulse murders. Just one too many of “those” people today and, well, tragedy. What’s more, there’s also a greater increase in accidental discharge, or unintentional. As I recall, there was recently a story of a toddler picking up a gun from mom’s purse and shooting her as she was driving. I don’t know how many people know this, but the pull weight, that is the amount of pressure needed to pull a trigger, is often far less in a loaded gun than unloaded. That means that when a round is chambered, a toddler is strong enough to pull the trigger, and even if the child can pull the trigger of an empty gun, pulling the slide takes more strength still.
With people focusing so intently on mass shootings (the fear that drove Texas to this legislation), we seem to be forgetting about impulse homicide, accidental shootings, accidental discharge injuries, or even suicide. As it becomes easier to carry guns, we can anticipate more people buying guns. As more people buy guns, it’s reasonable to assume it will be easier to get guns. As more people get guns, yes, we can anticipate gun deaths and injuries to rise. I hope we track the total number of gun incidents, injuries and deaths over the next months in Texas, as opposed to simply the mass shootings.