By Amy Moore and Heather Nolan
It was a shoot or be shot situation, Aaron Horne will tell you.
While he was making a quick stop at a Beaumont Walgreen’s last week to pick up some milk, Horne said, a would-be robber put a shotgun in his face and demanded his wallet.
“Is this it? Is this the situation where I shoot someone?” Horne said he asked himself as he stared at the shotgun.
Horne, a concealed-handgun license holder, said it took mere moments for him to decide to grab his Taurus 709 slim pistol and shoot the man trying to rob him.
“It was strange,” he said. “It seemed like it took forever. There was no question he was prepared to use it (his gun) so there was no question what I had to do.”
In the wake of recent mass shootings – like the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wis. or the Jefferson County Courthouse shooting – gun rights advocates have suggested that a CHL carrier – perhaps someone like Horne – could have saved lives.
Those on the other side of the gun debate, however, say adding another armed person to a mass shooting could result in more casualties.
Texans – at least those living here – seem to side with gun-rights advocates. A number of Southeast Texans interviewed for this story cited research which has suggested state concealed-carry laws help reduce crime.
It’s a knee-jerk reaction after mass shootings for some politicians and voters to start pushing for stricter gun regulations, said Tommy Cruse, Golden Triangle Gun Club member and certified concealed handgun license instructor. Cruse, 59, said the focus should instead be on how to prevent incidents like those from happening again.
“If I was going out murdering people with baseball bats, would you outlaw baseball bats and baseball?” he asked. “It’s the same for cars. It’s not guns, it’s the people – you penalize the people, not the tool.”
Alice Tripp, the legislative director at the Texas State Rifle Association, said the gun regulation debate is heating up because it is an election year.
“There’s no correlation between any of these shootings,” she said, referring to the Aurora movie theater, Wisconsin Sikh temple and recent College Station shootings. “None whatsoever. They are in three different states, different circumstances, different people involved. There are people that would bring up the subject of gun control because it’s a campaign year.”
The law that allows Texans to carry concealed handguns in public took effect in 1995, and Tripp said more than 700,000 Texans now have concealed carry permits.
“There were concerns that this (law) would make someone possibly more aggressive, and it seems to be just exactly the opposite,” she said. “Any concerns brought up in 1995 about having all these people running around with handguns, that hasn’t materialized. This has not been a problem.”
Texas has been touted as a state with weak gun laws and has continuously been ranked among the worst states for gun safety by gun control groups.
It’s a reputation that has infuriated gun rights activists like Tripp who say that designation is “not true at all.”
“Everybody would like to believe that – especially if you’re Texan – that we’re the Wild, Wild West,” she said. “But we’re not, really.”
Texas follows all federal laws relating to firearms sales and concealed carry permits, Tripp said.
It is a “shall issue” state, according to the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, which means permits must be issued to applicants who meet uniform standards established by the state Legislature.
Applicants must go through state and federal criminal background checks and they must submit their fingerprints, which are used to identify a person in a national criminal database. Once they receive the permit, they must pay a fee and take 10 hours of training in both a classroom and on a shooting range.