Highlights from Hair Balls
Current Texas Land Commissioner and Lt. Governor hopeful Jerry Patterson has been a staunch supporter of conservative causes. He recently told reporters he thought liberal states like New York and California should be kicked out of the Union. He is also a proud concealed-gun carrier, allegedly packing heat wherever he goes.
Last Saturday, he was scheduled to make an appearance at a pro-gun rally outside the Alamo in San Antonio. At issue is the right not just to carry a weapon, but to do so openly. Texas allows registered citizens to carry concealed weapons, but Patterson and other advocates say they should be able to carry weapons in plain sight, including "long guns" (i.e., rifles).
The rally is in San Antonio because three open-carry advocates were recently cited for carrying rifles outside a Starbucks in the city (this, in and of itself, is its own punch line). The rally promises as many as 1,000 rifle-wielding Texans outside the Alamo in the center of San Antonio's downtown and tourist district. Technically, it will be breaking a city ordinance, but the police chief has agreed to suspend the law for that day.
Patterson's office forwarded what appear to be his remarks for the rally to the media and, agree or not with the argument over open-carry laws, the missive is as surreal as it is, at certain moments, hilarious. Here's my personal breakdown:
The last time hundreds of Texans showed up at the Alamo with rifles, they were hailed as heroes in their stand against a tyrannical government.
Texas — and Texans — have changed a lot since then. But the fundamental, Constitutional right to keep and bear arms has not.
Well, yeah, but that didn't exactly end well, now did it? And saying, "Texas has changed a lot" since 1836 is a bit like saying, "This whole Internet thing seems to be pretty popular, doesn't it?"
The main goal of today's rally at the Alamo is simple: The peaceful exercise of a right we fear losing. It is legal, after all, to carry a long gun in Texas. Despite that fact, there are those who would claim otherwise under color of law. Today's demonstration is expression of that right, plain and simple.
This is a clever if bizarre argument that often comes from groups like this one — they exist on both the left and the right, mind you. It goes something like, "There is this law that is basically going unchallenged, but we are convinced it might be at some point in the future, so we are going to protest the future, potential change before it happens."
Have there been gun restrictions? Of course. But the NRA and others have sought to convince anyone who will listen that these restrictions are simply a path for the government to show up at your door and take all your guns before throwing you in a work camp and forcing you into Ayn Rand's vision of the dystopian future.
It's a purposeful overreach designed to scare the crap out of people so badly, they will do anything to protect a right that isn't really being threatened, so much so in fact that their advocacy ends up being not just for keeping said right, but for expanding it so much that it is barely relevant — like openly carrying hunting rifles in public because millions of people are clearly dying to take their 20 gauges to the park.
It should be noted, San Antonio's city council has declared they will not enforce the city's unconstitutional ordinance prohibiting any person other than police or security officers from carrying a firearm within the city limits at a public event. They know they would lose any challenge to an arrest made under such city ordinance in a court of law. So in that respect, today's Second Amendment exercise has already been successful.
But a more subtle goal of today's gathering is one largely been lost in the media hype surrounding it, and that is the effect such a rally might have to help normalize the sight of an armed citizen.
The fact that many Texans only feel comfortable with police carrying guns isn't normal, historically speaking. Armed citizens shouldn't be alarming in a free society.
No, of course not. I mean, the first thing I think when I see some guys with guns walking into a convenience store is, "Now, there go a couple of fine American patriots." And it's not like we're talking about single-shot muskets here. The "long guns" they want to be openly carried include AK-47s and other assault weaponry. It seems reasonable that people say, "I don't know, grabbing a morning cup of coffee at Starbucks, I might be a tad alarmed by the presence of dudes carrying AKs."
And I'm sure the next argument is, "But, Jeff, if you too were allowed to carry an AK, then you could take on would-be convenience store thugs in a hail of gunfire and be touted as an American hero." Sure, that or I could shoot myself in the leg trying to dislodge my gun from the back seat and bleed out in the parking lot. But maybe that's just me.
It wasn't always so. I can remember bringing an old, Civil War-era muzzle-loader I had gotten for Christmas to Hartman Junior High School in Houston for show and tell. Instead of causing a lock-down and a S.W.A.T. response, it elicited the ohhs and ahhs of other kids who got an impromptu lesson in gun safety and history. Nothing, in my opinion, could be more normal than that.
Christmas at the Patterson house must have been awesome! I'm picturing something like:
Little Jerry (Patterson, not the cock-fighting rooster named after Jerry Seinfeld) comes bounding down the stairs Christmas morning to see the tree surrounded by presents. As he tears through the packages, discarding the socks and toys and other boring crap, he finally finds it...that gleaming Civil War-era muzzle-loader he always wanted since he saw it in that magazine alongside the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, which turned out to be TOTALLY lame.
Jerry runs over to his parents and says, "Thanks, mom and dad. You're the best ever!" He then proceeds to his backyard, where he tries to shoot Black Bart but nearly ends up putting his eye out.
By agreeing to speak to this rally at the Alamo today, I am doing what I think is best to ease the fear that has gripped our state and our nation when it comes to guns. Texans — and Americans in general — shouldn't be defined by our fears but by our freedoms. We are stronger than that.
Yes, the fear that has gripped us all will easily be rectified by allowing everyone to carry guns openly in public. I mean, it worked for the Old West; why not neighborhood shopping malls or day-care centers or the beach? Nothing makes me feel safer than a bunch of drunk college kids...and their assault rifles.
Chron Moonwalks Away From Ted Cruz Endorsement.
Remember when the Houston Chronicle endorsed Ted Cruz for the U.S. Senate instead of "establishment" conservative David Dewhurst? You don't? Well, they want us to forget it too. They also told us Ted Cruz was "thoughtful." But they don't want you to remember that either.
Last week, the editors penned a piece pining for the days of Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Here's a few choice snippets:
And dare we say it? We miss her extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary. Neither sitting Texas senator has displayed that useful skill, and both the state and the Congress are the poorer for it.
One reason we particularly believe that Hutchison would make a difference in these hectic days is that if she had kept her seat, Cruz would not be in the Senate.
When we endorsed Ted Cruz in last November's general election, we did so with many reservations and at least one specific recommendation — that he follow Hutchison's example in his conduct as a senator.
More on this classic moonwalk in a second — the first question it raises is: well, why didn't you endorse Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst? Turns out the Chronicle has a good excuse for this as well:
While we're on the topic, we'd like to think our first choice to succeed Hutchison in the Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would have been more amenable to following Hutchison's example than Cruz has been. But these days, we're not so sure. Dewhurst, long considered a moderate in the Texas GOP, clearly was rattled by his unexpected loss to Cruz for the Senate seat.
Since the defeat, the lieutenant governor has attempted a full-blown political makeover designed to make him the darling of the conservative wing of the Texas party.
Faced with the impossible task of outflanking three strong conservative challengers, the traditional moderate Dewhurst does not seem like a man comfortable in his own skin. It's painful to watch.
But what is really painful to watch is the editorial board's johnny-come-lately approach to Cruz and "just so" story regarding their Kreskin-like ability to see into the future and know, just know, that Dewhurst would have been a disaster too. (To the Chronicle's credit, it did endorse Hutchinson over Perry in the governor's race).
Our real question, though, should be, what did the Chronicle's editors see in Cruz's campaign rhetoric and political past to make them think he would not turn out to be an embarrassment to the state of Texas. Cruz was supported by far-right ideological organizations such as the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservative Fund, the Tea Party PAC Freedom Works, the conspiratorial right-wing blog Red State, the Tea Party Express . . . the list could go on. Did our city's paper-of-record not do its homework? Did it simply not want to endorse the Democratic candidate who had no chance of winning? Nobody likes a loser! How did the editors come to the conclusion that Cruz was thoughtful?
We will never receive good answers to these questions, but let's hope the next time the paper attaches its good name to a political candidate, it's the Chronicle who is a little more thoughtful.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.