By Sean Mannix - Special to the American-Statesman
Many people assume because of our line work, police chiefs are rarely troubled by news stories others may find unnerving. However, there are some cases that stay with us long after they’ve made news.
A few weeks ago, I was alarmed to learn that an 8-year-old Texas student unintentionally brought a loaded handgun to her elementary school. Thankfully, her teacher and law enforcement were immediately notified — and no one was injured. However, this was too close of a call. We cannot afford to let a similar incident happen again.
This is one of the many reasons that the Texas Police Chiefs Association opposes two dangerous gun bills that would leave all Texans, including the youngest among us, more vulnerable to the threat of gun violence.
House Bills 375 and 1911 would dismantle Texas’ license to carry — or LTC — system. Both bills would remove the requirements that individuals obtain a permit and complete safety training before carrying a loaded handgun in public.
As a police chief, I know that the LTC system is one of the most vital tools we have for keeping our communities safe. A permit is the best way for me to verify whether a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm or from carrying one in public. Removing this crucial step would put the lives of my community members and fellow law enforcement officers at greater risk.
Dismantling the LTC system would only open the floodgates for more gun violence to permeate all corners of our society. I am not the only one who feels this way; more than 170 law enforcement officials across Texas have signed a public letter expressing clear concerns over the prospect of making Texas a permitless carry state. We take our duty to protect and serve seriously. Abolishing the LTC system would only hinder our ability to do so.
The system is not only important for law enforcement. Safety training classes required by the LTC system include a component dedicated to the safe storage of firearms. It is the responsibility of all gun owners to ensure that the firearms in their homes and vehicles are locked, unloaded and stored separately from ammunition. Doing so helps keep guns away from young children who may bring them to school or unintentionally shoot themselves or someone close by.
As it stands, Texas is one of the nation’s leaders in unintentional shootings by children. Last year, Texas experienced at least 22 shootings by children who accessed and unintentionally discharged a gun, resulting in eight deaths and 14 injuries. Our numbers were worse than any other state in the country last year — and 2017 isn’t shaping up to look any better. This year there have already been at least six unintentional shootings by children in our state, which resulted in three deaths and four injuries.
A recent poll released by two organizations — the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Everytown for Gun Safety — found that 91 percent of Texans support the permitting system, including 90 percent of gun owners and 94 percent of current permit holders. This isn’t surprising. Texas has a long and proud history of responsible gun ownership, thanks in part to common-sense gun laws like the LTC system.
I’m disappointed that our lawmakers are attempting to push this reckless policy. My opposition to these bills is not a matter of being partisan or anti-Second Amendment; it is matter of being concerned for the public safety and welfare of our communities.
I urge everyone to join me in persuading our lawmakers to reject House Bills 375 and 1911. Our laws have real repercussions, not only for us but for our children. As a police chief, I have spoken with too many grieving families and seen too many traumatized communities. The time to speak up is now.
Mannix is police chief of the Cedar Park Police Department.