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How Texans Lost the Right to Bear Handguns

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Article first appeared on Ammoland.com

U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- During the debate over HB1927, in the Texas Senate Special Committee on Constitutional Issues, Senator Eddie Lucio (D) made a startling assertion. He stated Texans could not have the right to bear arms restored because the right to bear arms has not been infringed. At about 05:01:50, He asked, During the testimony of Andi Turner, Legislative Director for the Texas State Rifle Association:

When did we lose them?…

Later he said, about 05:04:30 :

We never lost the right to bear arms in this state. 

Then he references Matt Dillon and Dodge as an example of where the right did not exist. (“unless they are lying to us on those shows…”).

Who would think a fictional western might not be true?

In the case of Texas, we know precisely when the right to bear arms was taken away. It was on 5 July 1869, when the Texas Constitution of 1869 was ratified. The right to bear long guns was restored on 15 February 1876. The right to bear handguns was never restored.

Texas was born in revolution, with many similarities to the American Revolution, only 50 years after the American declaration of independence in 1776.  In 1835, Santa Anna and a new Mexican government assumed absolute power and overthrew the existing liberal Constitution. Texans decided to fight to maintain their rights, along with several other Mexican states. As with the United States, the initial skirmish occurred with an attempt to confiscate weapons. Texas was successful in its bid for independence and wrote its first constitution in 1836.

The Texas Constitution of 1836 had a strong right to keep and bear arms protections. It came directly from the recent experience of the necessity of arms for the defense of self and the community. From the 1836 declaration of rights:

“Fourteenth. Every citizen shall have the right to bear arms in defence of himself and the Republic. The military shall at all times and in all cases be subordinate to the civil power.”

In 1845, Texas joined the United States. Texans approved of a new state constitution. It contained a very strong right to keep and bear arms. From the Texas Constitution of 1845, considered one of the best ever written:

SEC. 13. Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defence of himself or the State.

The right to arms was considered to be so strong in Texas, the Texas Supreme Court wrote the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense was absolute. From Clayton Cramer, quoting Cockrum v. State, 1859:

Cockrum v. State (Tex. 1859): upheld a sentence enhancement for manslaughters committed with a Bowie knife, but acknowledged that the Texas Constitution’s right to keep and bear arms guaranteed a right to carry such a weapon, and appears to have conceded that the Second Amendment also guaranteed an individual right.  “The object of the clause first cited [the Second Amendment], has reference to the perpetuation of free government, and is based on the idea, that the people cannot be effectually oppressed and enslaved, who are not first disarmed.  The clause cited in our Bill of Rights, has the same broad object in relation to the government, and in addition thereto, secures a personal right to the citizen.  The right of a citizen to bear arms, in the lawful defence of himself or the State, is absolute….  The right to carry a bowie-knife for lawful defence is secured, and must be admitted.”

Texas joined with the Confederacy in 1860.  The Confederacy lost the war. Texas created a new constitution in 1866. The new constitution eliminated slavery and repudiated the Ordinance of Secession. It was created to regain entry to the Union. The Constitution of 1866 kept the right to keep and bear arms. From the Constitution of 1866:

SEC. 13. Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms, in the lawful defence of himself or the State.

The radical republicans were not satisfied with the Constitution of 1866. They created a new Texas Constitution in 1869.

The 1869 Constitution gutted the right to keep and bear arms, with this adulterated version of a “right”, which was not a right at all.

 “Every person shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the state, under such regulations as the legislature may prescribe.”

In the contentious elections of 1872  and 1873, Texans voted out the carpetbagger government.  The governor begged for federal troops to support him, but none were sent.  He escaped the governor’s mansion as a spontaneously organized militia of armed citizens threatened to throw him out.

After the end of reconstruction, the Texas legislature approved of a new Constitution, in 1876.  The Democrats in charge appear to have liked the power to disarm former slaves and others out of favor with the local authorities. They did not return to the right to arms of the 1845 and 1866 Constitutions.

They removed the right to bear “wearable arms” and gave the state the power to regulate them. From the 1876 Constitution:

“Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defence of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power by law to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”

The right to bear all arms had been taken away in 1869. It was only partly restored on 15 February 1876, with the ratification of the Texas Constitution of 1876. The right to bear “wearable arms” such as pistols and knives, remained lost. Democrats would control Texas for over a century.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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