Will Police Harass More Blacks for Open Carry Than Whites?

A Texas lawmaker hopes cops are colorblind when enforcing open carry laws. But will his amendment work?

By Rhonda FanningApril 23, 2015 1:35 pm

The open carry of handguns has gotten a thumbs up from the Texas Legislature this session – not too much surprise there.

But one unexpected amendment would prevent police officers from stopping those who carry openly, just to check for the proper licensing.

The amendment was offered by Rep. Harold Dutton – a Democrat ­– who said the law needs to be in place to stop police from harassing African-Americans deciding to publicly carry firearms.

It raises a question – are African-Americans displaying firearms viewed differently compared to their white counterparts? We asked Charles Gallagher, a sociologist at La Salle University, who’s extensively studied this subject.

“Historically, there was a time when blacks were armed,” he says. “They had to arm themselves against things like the Klan, and the terrorism that occurred in the South. But guns were kind taken out of the equation in the late ’60s, because of riots. And it think now what’s happening – if you look at survey data across the country – most black communities do not want more guns in their community.”

“This amendment does a few things,” Gallagher says. “It gives a Democrat political cover, because most black communities don’t want guns there. So he can argue that’s he’s a law and order kinda guy, with incentive to the black community.”

“But it’s also, quite honestly, a moot point,” Gallagher continues. “Police officers have enormous discretion to do what they want. So they can pull over anyone under the guise of a some kind of … search.”

Listen to the full interview in the player above.