THE PARKING LOT –Driving to this convenience store at my weekend getaway in Varicose Valley, I suddenly hear shouting. True story. Parked in the middle of the lot are two vehicles, drivers’ doors open. The shouting is the work of two guys who must have had an altercation down the street and pulled in here to begin their learned discussion. They are red- faced and blue-tongued, calling each other every obscene term you have ever heard. “You tailgated me all the (fill in the blank) way!” “You (etc. etc.) were driving five miles an hour down the middle of the (one guess) road!” And so on.
They are about to come to blows. A young man who drives a huge Pepsi delivery truck runs up to calm things down. Several others do the same. I am taking notes. Yep, young white trash Billy Bob and LeRoy are about to go to Fight City, except these two foul-mouthed combatants are in their sixties or seventies, both white-haired, one is wearing a baseball cap from his country club. Each is driving a new-model white Mercedes — one is an SUV.
What I am witnessing quite probably are two retired CEOs – it’s 10:30 on a Monday morning — who got to executive suite by intimidation, but each has met his obnoxious equal. Now my real worry: what if one is carrying a concealed putter on his hip, or maybe a nine-iron in his shoulder holster? Or both of them? Golf fight at the AARP Corral.
Yes, hang on my fellow victims because the Texas Legislature is about to overturn a 125-year-old law and allow us to openly carry handguns. Back step one pace: Under current law, Texans older than 21 who pass a background check, take a class and shooting test may carry concealed handguns after paying a fee and becoming properly licensed. Fortunately, only a handful of Texans were willing to jump through so many hoops. Wait, the number is nearly 826,000, and the state has agreements recognizing license holders from 30 other states. That’s a lot of locked and loaded people – the loaded part worries me.
There is a problem for the gun gang. A number of locations prohibit concealed carry, including institutions of higher learning, so the Legislators are closing it. This new law would require public colleges to allow concealed handgun license holders to carry handguns on campus, while allowing private schools to opt out of the law. Surprisingly enough, those ivory tower eggheads don’t like the idea.
College presidents, chancellors, regents and campus cops, most students and parents, not to mention professors who occasionally flunk students, are aghast at the idea of some hungover frat rat coming to class armed and nauseous. “I’ll show you how to dissect a fetal pig, professor.” Bang! Bang! Or: “Hank Sam, you’ve been making moon eyes at Sally Sue all semester. Put down that Pythagorean Theorem and draw!” Bang! Bang! It gives a whole new meaning to the term, student body, or for ROTC students, mortar board.
Not only are the professors appalled at the idea of giving a lecture, from behind a two-inch-thick bullet-proof glass shield, on Modern Philosophy – How to Get Along. There is also the cost. Estimates to implement campus carry at Texas’ public colleges and universities could cost tens of millions of dollars. UT and UH systems alone would need to spend $47 million combined over six years to update security systems, build gun storage facilities and increase campus police units. These costs would either (a) be taken from the school’s education and research funds, or (b) increase tuitions, which would be passed on to the parents who are already holding down five jobs to get junior though school.
Nonsense, says the bill’s sponsor, Republican Brian Birdwell of Granbury. He argued: “A fundamental right granted by the creator is not subordinate to the financial costs or speculation of our public universities.” It’s good to find out that Rep. Birdwell knows more about the finances of higher education than the people who actually handle the costs, but this brings up an interesting question. “A fundamental right granted by the creator.” Where in the Bible is carrying guns granted by God? “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” That may have been mistranslated from: “Beating plowshares into AK-47s,” or, “Beating a hasty retreat when a student comes to class carrying an M 16 assault rifle.”
In all of this debate, and it lasted for days, some left-wing nut jobs might have been wondering why our legislators were not taking up our education funding, which is dismal. Or our roads and bridges which everyone agrees are crumbling, especially the people who make a lot of money building and repairing our roads and bridges. Our state government is totally controlled by conservative Republicans, so how about dealing with the hordes of Texans with no health insurance who get treated at our emergency rooms and the rest of us have to pay the bill? How conservative is that, big spenders?
In spite of the above list of embarrassing if not silly shortsightedness, our lawmakers love tax cuts, and are looking at a proposed $4.7 billion reduction over the next two years. Why not? Texas already ranks at or near the bottom in per capita spending by state governments. Good, except that Texas is falling apart — our infrastructure is devastated, our schools need help and health care is sick.
No, our legislators have different priorities, like allowing college kids to openly carry weapons into classes, profs’ offices and did I mention dorms, too? It’s all about gun control, and remember, in Texas, “gun control” means holding it with both hands. As for those two codgers facing off in the parking lot in Varicose Valley, thank goodness the golfers only had harsh words and not a Walker Colt between them, or there would have been a hole in one.
Ashby ducks at email@example.com