A few years ago, I spent a year living in Portland, Oregon, and was surprised to learn, shortly after arriving in town, that I would need to pass a written exam before being approved for an Oregon driver’s license.
Working on campaigns, I’ve lived all over the country, and couldn’t think of a time I had been asked to pass a written exam to get a license in any of those states, including here in Texas. But in Oregon, they did it differently, so on a random weekday, I made it to the nearest office offering the test, waited in a long line, and then sat down at a computer.
I answered 35 questions. Before the exam began, a large prompt filled the screen warning you that you had to answer 28 of the questions correctly. If you failed to do so, you would need to get back in line, pay a second fee, and take the test over.
As I began answering questions I became alarmed at the number of people whispering expletives and getting back in line to pay their fee for a second time and retake the exam.
I passed, but barely. I managed to answer 28 questions correctly, exactly.
Buying a gun is nowhere near that complicated. Any law-abiding American can walk into their neighborhood sporting goods store and purchase a hunting rifle or a handgun in a number of minutes. Before they can take possession of that deadly weapon, they must complete a standard, federal background check.
They answer 16 questions.
That’s why it doesn’t make sense to me that Republicans in the Texas legislature are trying to push legislation that would allow for the permitless carry of firearms. That means you need no license, training, or experience to be able to conceal a weapon on your person when you’re out in public.
It’s a policy agenda that only makes sense when your governing philosophy revolves around appealing to the most fervent supporters of conservative orthodoxy, in a state that has seen more than its share of gun-related violence and deaths.
People are killed by guns in Texas in their homes and cars, on the street and in playgrounds. We’ve lost lives in churches and schools and even in a neighborhood Walmart.
There is no compelling evidence to suggest that Texans will be safer by adding more people carrying concealed weapons to the mix. In fact, the vast majority of research on gun-related violence tells us that more guns often mean more casualties. So why are we taking such a tremendous risk with the lives of Texans?
Don’t get me wrong, despite feeling strongly about the need for sensible gun laws, I don’t have any issues with people who are trained and licensed to safely carry a firearm doing so. In most states, including Texas right now, those folks have to take classes and receive specific training on how to safely carry a gun.
Those laws make sense, and they work. They help teach responsible gun ownership and they weed out people who shouldn’t be licensed to carry publicly.
Allowing anyone who successfully answers 16 questions to tuck a pistol in their waistband doesn’t make sense, and it’s just the latest example of Texas Republicans perpetually competing in a sort of Bad Idea Olympics.
It isn’t enough for them to simply shut down any common-sense effort to introduce safer gun laws to our communities, so they make our communities more dangerous by allowing permitless carry.
It isn’t enough that Texas is already one of the hardest states to register to vote in, so they create additional barriers to casting your ballot.
It isn’t enough that Texas is one of the hardest states for women to get reproductive health care in, so they’re introducing a medically ridiculous six week ban on abortions.
There is no bridge too far for the Republicans farthest on the right, because to them this is little more than a shell game, carried out session after session in the hope that some of them might get to jump from Austin to Washington, D.C., or that one day they may occupy the Governor’s mansion.
It’s a sick and twisted game they keep playing with our lives, and they play it with the confidence of people who doubt they’ll ever be punished for putting politics over people.
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