Lubbock ranks near the top of Texas cities for violent crime. According to the 2009 FBI city-by-city crime statistics, Lubbock was 23rd out of 646 cities at 933 violent crimes per 100,000 people. To put that in perspective, Lubbock’s violent crime rate is more than triple that of Garland, a suburb of Dallas with about the same population.
Victoria Messer, a senior political science major from Canyon, Texas, said she is working to avoid becoming a statistic. “My house has two shotguns, a rifle and two handguns,” Messer said. “If someone was to break in, we’re protected, but it’s not something I would grab unless I needed to.”
“Guns are important,” said Jay Temple. owner of Straight Shooter Shooting School in Lubbock. “My Second Amendment rights are important. I know there are apartments in town and states that do not allow and regulate guns. I wouldn’t live there.”
According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, Temple is part of the 47 percent of Americans who reportedly own guns. The report also shows southern males who identify with a politically conservative ideology tend to own guns more often and in greater numbers.
Temple said he prides himself in his work of finding the best-priced firearms and educating the community about handgun mechanics and safety. Last month, Temple taught a concealed handgun license course on site at Straight Shooters, on 50th Street. A scheduled class of nine learned the basics of concealed handgun carry while paying mind to Straight Shooter’s motto: “Carry daily, use sparingly.”
“Have you not ever fired a gun? We’ve got to fix that,” Temple said laughing. “I can fix that.” But when it comes to self-defense and home protection, Temple said it is no lighthearted matter.
“There aren’t many people who want to mess with a guy my size,” Temple said, standing at 6’1”. “But people warned that the one time if someone were to attack, they would be hopped up on drugs, and sure enough that’s what happened.”
Temple also works in real estate and he said that, while appraising a dilapidated government-owned piece of property in East Lubbock, he was confronted by a man who, Temple says, appeared to be on drugs. Temple said he was startled into pursuing his concealed license the next day.
“I praise Arizona. I praise Vermont. I praise Alaska,” Temple said. “Because they don’t have to have a license to carry a gun, either openly or concealed. Gun owners typically don’t like to share their opinion on our rights as Americans, but I live and breathe the thought of it each day. It’s just how strongly I feel about it.”
Texas does not require registration of firearms, although state law requires a state-issued ID of all buyers. The lack of registration makes it hard to accurately report how many people own guns in the state. According to the Federal Firearms License association’s website, there are more than 4,900 arms dealers in the state, including 53 locations in Lubbock that sell or distribute firearms. “I believe the only gun law we need is the Constitution and the Second Amendment,” Temple said. “I believe our forefathers had it right.”
Mark McKenzie, assistant professor of constitutional and election law at Texas Tech, said one reason for the ongoing debate over gun ownership is what he calls the vague language of the law. “The Founding Fathers were smart,” McKenzie said, “but people debate the Second Amendment because the phrasing is so poorly written.”
The Second Amendment, adopted along with the other nine Amendments in the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15, 1791, reads as follows:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
McKenzie, who received his J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007, said he believes if rational people are being honest, they will agree the structure of the language provides little in understanding the law’s true intent. “You could interpret it either and any way you wanted,” McKenzie said. “We still don’t know what the Founding Fathers meant and the debate continues.”
Concealed carry is allowed in Texas and after the 2009 passage of Texas House Bill 1815, known as the Motorist Protection Act, it’s legal to keep firearms within reach in a vehicle, even within school zones.
A Freedom of Information Act application was filed with the Lubbock Police Department last month, requesting all gun related crime statistics for the Lubbock area since 2007, but Charlotte Null, with LPD, said the law doesn’t require specifying whether a gun was used in the commission of a crime.
The FBI’s website divides the Uniform Crime Reporting program into two groups, Part I and Part II. “All the FBI UCR asks for are recordings of Part I assaults,” said Null. “Basically, your crimes involving burglary or homicide. We don’t keep a working record if guns are involved or not.” Part I offenses are: violent crimes – criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and property crimes – burglary, larceny – theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Various law enforcement agencies participating in the program submit information on the number of Part I offenses.
According to the information provided by the LPD, 14,035 Part I crimes occurred in 2011 including 71 instances of reported rape, 1,414 aggravated assaults, and more than 11,000 robberies, burglaries and thefts. Over 58,000 Part I crimes have occurred in Lubbock since 2008, 7,988 violent crimes, and 50,063 property crimes.
Raymondville, Texas, near the Mexican border, ranks first overall in rate of violent crimes with more than double the rate of Houston and more than quadruple the rate of Austin. South Padre Island ranked first at a rate of 24,792 property crimes, almost five times the rate of Dallas and almost nine times more than Plano.
South Padre’s crime stats come with an asterisk, of sorts. City officials estimate their local population swells from about 3,000 year-round to more than 45,000 during spring break. The high property crime rate could be correlated with this dramatic spike in population during March and April each year.
Messer, the gun-owning political science senior, helps the Republican Party’s Texas and New Mexico campaign efforts. She said she feels it would be a hard case to make to eliminate or limit American gun rights. “If Obama is re-elected, I don’t feel that my gun rights would be seriously affected,” she said. “Plus, most rights and regulations are made on the state level. Texas would be one of the last states to change anything. God bless Texas.”
Partisan politics create two sides to the arguments. Conservatives at the recent 2012 Republican National Convention released an opinion supporting the right to self-defense with a firearm and recognizing gun licenses across state lines. The party also opposes a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
Mason Moreland, student and external vice president of the Texas Tech Gun Club, said he and the club’s members are respectful of varying views regarding gun control and ownership. “We are not a political organization,” Moreland said, “and our members have widely varying views.”
The 2012 Democratic Party Platform specifies a position similar to its GOP counterpart: “We recognize … and will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right(s) … . (However) We understand the terrible consequences of gun violence. We believe in an honest, open national conversation about firearms. We can focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and we can work together to enact commonsense improvements — like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole — so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few.”
The National Rifle Association’s website commends the GOP for supporting “our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms.” The NRA site doesn’t mention the Democratic Party’s stance.
The July 20 Aurora, Colo. shooting massacre was a catalyst for people on both sides of the gun debate. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, introduced legislation that would limit large-capacity magazines, which reduce the need to stop and reload. Mark Vance, a local gun enthusiast, has a different perspective. “Maybe if more than one person had been armed in that shooting, it would have been a lot less deadly,” Vance said.
Temple and Straight Shooters continue to run deals on websites like Groupon for discounted concealed handgun licensing classes. Tech Gun Club also hosts concealed handgun licensing seminars periodically. “You’re going to be hard pressed to find someone in West Texas who doesn’t think we should be allowed to carry guns,” Temple said. “Guns don’t kill people, people do.”
by Chana Elgin, Brad Cesak
Contributed to The Hub by Jour 4350 and TexasTechToday.com