Open carry remains a hot topic in Southeast Texas

For the first time, members of the Beaumont Police Department and Derek Poe Thursday came together to discuss the right to openly carry long arms in public.

It's been a hot topic in Southeast Texas since Poe was charged with disorderly conduct after carrying an AR-15 through Parkdale Mall in December... a case he's fighting to this day.

But at Thursday's Press Club of Southeast Texas meeting, Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary said he's all for gun rights, if the public isn't spooked, and his officers aren't at risk.

"We know you have a right to do that, but just be responsible in where you're doing it and when you're doing it," said Singletary.

Singletary gave an example, saying you should not openly carry a rifle into a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant during a kid's birthday party.

Local blogger M.J. Ponsegrau got up and shared his concerns with certain open carry practices.
"You have people that want to go into Parkdale Mall sporting these things? How do we know if somebody's gone off-kilter because his wife ran away with somebody younger, or he just lost his job and he's going in to take it out on humanity? There's no way of knowing until the shots are fired," said Ponsegrau.

Poe said he would rather carry a handgun openly, but Texas is one of only six states where the law requires licensed owners to conceal their handguns.

"I mean they do it everyday in Wisconsin and Arizona. They go to Wal-Mart, no one freaks out when people do that there, they're used to seeing it there," said Poe.

The executive director of Gun Owners of America supported Poe. Larry Pratt flew in from Washington, D.C. to argue that "open carry" is a constitutionally protected right, saying the Internal Revenue Service targeting of Americans proves citizens are not unreasonable in being concerned about powerful government.

State Representative James White was also at the meeting. He said he is planning a bill to clarify statutes so Texans can carry long guns without fear of arrest.

Texas law states a person can be charged with disorderly conduct if they openly carry a long arm "in a manner calculated to alarm", which is open to interpretation.

"The Texas legislature tends to file a lot of Second Amendment bills, so there will be a lot of bills," said White.


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