Firearms instructor Wayne Thomas instructs women the proper stance in firearms shooting. Credit: AP/Carlos Osorio

Texans can now carry handguns in public without going through training or having to get permits, thanks to House Bill 1927. But the new law has some worried that Blacks will pay a huge price.

“This is going to boil down to people using their own discernment to decide who is the bad guy with the gun versus who is the bad guy. And chances are the Black dude is going to always be seen as the bad guy,” said gun safety instructor Joseph Stevens.

Also known as the “permitless carry” law,  HB1927 allows Texans 21 and older to openly carry handguns without a license or training if they are not legally prevented from doing so by state or federal law.

Photo: Bebeto Matthews

The bill was signed into law after a compromise was reached between lawmakers in the Texas House and Senate, which included getting rid of a provision that would have prevented officers from questioning people solely based on their possession of a handgun. Texas joins at least 20 other states with similar laws.

Conservative activists have been pushing for such a law in Texas, but such measures got little traction in the previous three legislative sessions. In 2019, a permitless carry bill didn’t even get a committee hearing in the Texas House.

Black attack

Several years ago, in Dallas, a man named Mark Hughes legally carried his AR-15 rifle to a protest. When someone else committed a crime, the Dallas Police Department circulated a photo of Hughes on social media and referred to him as a “suspect” in the attack.

Police later retracted their statement and deleted the photo after determining that Hughes had nothing to do with the attack that killed five police officers, but their methods sparked controversy among Black gun owners who say they’re discriminated against for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.

“This is how they treat Black men with guns,” said Babu Omowale, cofounder of the Dallas-based Huey P. Newton Gun Club. “I was actually at the protest. I saw the brother with his gun, and it didn’t alarm me in any type of way because to me, he’s another brother expressing his Second Amendment right. But the police automatically view him as a suspect. But that’s how they view us — as suspects. They view us as possible criminals when we’re only applying our given rights as gun owners.”

Black gun owners often shy away from legally carrying firearms because of the negative racial stereotyping by some police officers. There is no data about whether officers target minority gun owners at higher rates than white Americans, but Kevin Buckler, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Houston-Downtown, said statistics showing racial disparities in police stops suggest that Black gun owners are at a greater risk.

“Transparency about the presence of the gun during the interaction is needed from the citizen, [and] officers need to ensure that they give clear instruction to the citizen on movements and behavior expectations,” Buckler said. “Many [police] departments have had success in early warning systems, which is an effort to identify officers early who have a tendency to escalate interactions or overreact and retrain them or terminate employment. It’s an effort to identify the ‘bad apples’ while maintaining trust and confidence in the officers who do their jobs well.”

Standing their ground

Another concern comes from gun-toting Texans who will use the ‘I felt threatened defense’ when pulling their weapon, particularly on young Black men.

“This is going to be a nightmare,” Stevens said. “History has shown us through the likes of people like George Zimmerman, Joseph Dunn, and the countless ‘Karens’ who feel the need to insert themselves in people’s business, that Blacks get the short end of the stick when it comes to situations where a weapon is involved. This is going to empower people and give them free reign to feel justified in drawing their weapon.”

Some critics say minorities are shut out even more with the new law because buyers will still be required to pass a background check at a gun store and felons would not be able to carry.

Molly Bursey with Moms Demand Action Texas is concerned that the bill will lead to guns falling into the wrong hands, especially since the background check is only required at federally licensed brick-and-mortar stores. 

“Many private gun sales are facilitated by meeting online. And folks can go around the background check system that way,” Bursey explained.

The bill will still prohibit Texans from carrying without a license in places protected by federal law, which includes schools and airports. 

House Bill 1927

House Bill 1927 was part of a slew of pro-gun legislation that lawmakers passed this year. Other measures passed include bills which:

-Bar government contracts with those who discriminate against the firearm industry as a whole

-Remove firearm suppressors from the state’s list of prohibited weapons

-Prohibits state and local governments from enforcing new federal gun regulations.

Let the people be heard

Readers weigh in on the new Texas law.

“It’s gonna be open season on police officers, EMTs, deputies….. just everybody who tries to help the helpless from a person who thinks they have rights over someone else.” – Ramona Dalton

“As long as it’s open season on Blacks in this country, it’s needful that we all carry to defend ourselves against the possibility of foul play.” – Bernice Dickey

“My whole family got trained when 45 was in office. For me it’s a ‘stay ready so you don’t have to get ready’/ CYA type deal. I don’t trust these Texans.” – Kym Fisher

“It’s going to be gunfight at OK Corral every day. Sad state of affairs. We don’t have a lot of choices if we want to protect ourselves, but it’s only going to get worse from here!” – Shirley Prejean Malonson

“I see more police murders coming from this.” – Tiffany L. Warren

“Stay stapped and have your video on when confronted….” – Lawanda Tillman

“I think they should leave the gun carrying to the police officers. There will be a lot of innocent life loss.” Carol Edmonds

“People don’t know how to handle conflict and lack impulse control. I’m thinking there will be way more shootings. My other concern is that I’ll never be viewed as the good guy with the gun. I think I’ll be viewed as the aggressor just based on appearance.” – Nakecia Bowers

“I won’t lie – I’m terrified. But I’m going to train & strap up.” – Candice Ordered Steps Johnson

“I’m torn on the issue. I’ve never liked guns, however the world seems so dangerous now that you have to stay ready! Depending on where you live or visit, you may be car-jacked, arm robbed, or worse! Truthfully, I don’t know the answer. But I did just receive my FOID card.” –Carole Roni Freeman

“Personally I stay strapped. Things are too crazy now.” – Leslie Smith

“I’m definitely looking to carry. I think numbers for African American gun owners has gone up. I’m gonna be in that number.” – Nicole Bird-Faulkner