Gun-free or free-fire

No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.

Its an odd year so the Texas legislature is in session. The big issue this year is "constitutional carry", the proponents of which want Texas gun laws changed to allow almost anyone to carry handguns openly anywhere and at all times, the way they can now carry long guns. Texas now licenses concealed carry, but forbids open carry, something that irks Second Amendment devotees. Several states have adopted constitutional carry, without becoming war zones, and it seems likely that Texas will soon join them. But Texas does have its complement of gun controllers who are seeking to restrict where and when people can carry openly, with the support of some police professionals. They have introduced several bills, HB 234, 255, 899, and 3989, that would try to expand "gun free" zones, which deserve to be cast into legislative oblivion.

Constitutional carry is appealingly simple, but it does not address all the legitimate concerns reasonable people may have. On poor legal advice to many proprietors adopt the simplistic policy of banning firearms from their premises, thinking that will protect them from being sued if a firearm is misused there. It will not. Eager lawyers will sue anyone from whom they think they can get a settlement. But since many of them rely on liability insurance, and the liability carrier is often eager to settle to reduce costs, that carrier is likely to require the banning of weapons as a condition of coverage.

So we need a different kind of legislation:

Proprietor liability protection

A bill needs to provide that:

1. Proprietors of premises are not liable for the misuse of weapons on their premises unless they personally instigate such misuse, even if they do not forbid weapons on those premises.
2. Suit for such liability must bear all costs of litigation unless they can prove personal complicity.
3. Liability carriers may not make their coverage conditional on banning weapons on the premises.
4. A proprietor who wishes to ban weapons must take custody of such weapons upon entry onto the premises, keep the weapons safely locked in an armory, return them to the bearer upon departure, and return such weapons to the bearer in the event of an incident requiring the weapons.
5. A proprietor is liable for any death or injury that could have been avoided had the weapons been left in the possession of the visitor.

Rival proponents of legislation are trying to write laws applicable to all kinds of people. Proponents of constitutional carry contemplate a population overwhelmingly composed of mature, responsible, competent, "law abiding" people, who are not disposed to misuse weapons, or are even disposed to help enforce the law. Proponents of gun control legislation see a population largely composed of ill-behaved delinquents, drunks, hotheads, untrained, and even members of criminal gangs.

Proponents of constitutional carry see gun control laws as only restrictive on responsible persons, the kind we want to have bear weapons. They see "gun free" zones as "free fire" zones for delinquents seeking easy targets, who will not only ignore laws and signage, but see them as opportunities.

That perception is distorted by the desire of police to be able to justifiably shoot to kill anyone they find bearing a weapon. If the possession of a weapon is not proof of delinquency, their decisions are much more difficult.

One way to limit possession of handguns to the more responsible has been to require a license to carry, available to those who pass a course in the safe and effective use of handguns. The idea of training is a good one, but it should be a requirement for everyone, not just as a condition for obtaining a license.

So what Texas needs is a

Militia Act

1. Each county shall have a Militia Board which shall maintain a roster of residents of the county fit for militia duty.
2. Each resident of a county fit for militia duty must register with the Militia Board of that county.
3. The sheriff and constables of each county and ward or precinct shall serve as commanders of militia in their jurisdictions.
4. In the event a sheriff or constable should be derelict in his duty to serve as commander, the residents of that jurisdiction may convene as militia to elect a commander.
5. All persons fit for militia must be called up at least once a year, organized into militia units, and trained in defense, law enforcement, disaster response, and jury duty.
6. Militia training shall begin at age six, and be conducted in public schools.
7. Militia personnel shall provide their own tools and equipment.
8. Personnel unfit for militia shall be identified, segregated from the remainder of militia, and shall receive remedial treatment.

Such a militia system would be a return to the system contemplated by the Founders, and would go a long way toward reducing misbehavior of all kinds.

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