Don’t be afraid: Chief suggests education key to gun understanding

SAN BENITO — If you’re scared of guns, you should make it a point to educate yourself on them.

That’s what San Benito resident Ben Champion suggests people do.

“Get someone to teach you,” he said. “Go to someone who knows the safety aspect and start out small.”

Champion suggests working your way up and taking lessons on how to shoot and how to do it safely.

“Then you will have a safe understanding of what it is,” he said.

San Benito Assistant Police Chief Michael Galvan agrees.

“Even if they don’t own a gun, I highly recommend to everyone, learn about them,” he said. “Make an educated opinion rather than assumption.”

National Rifle Association member and longtime gun owner, Champion said from a very young age the respect for guns was instilled in him by his father and grandfather.

“My dad gave me my first gun, a bb gun, when I was eight years old,” Champion said.

Sixty years later, Champion said he’s been shooting guns all his life and he personally checks his guns three, sometimes four times when using them.

It will take some time to get comfortable, but Champion said it’s doable.

“Baby steps,” he suggested.

In keeping with the goal to educate the public, yesterday, Galvan presented information to local business owners and operators regarding the new open carry law. That occurred during a meeting of the San Benito Rotary Club.

The new law, which went into effect Friday, the first day of the New Year, allows residents to openly carry licensed handguns in Texas.

People who openly carry guns are required to have them holstered on the shoulder or belt, Galvan said.

“It should stay in the holster,” Galvan said. “Don’t walk around with your hand on your gun.”

Those who currently have a concealed handgun license can now openly carry with no problem.

Retail and commercial businesses, however, can decide whether to opt out of open carry and concealed carry. They are required by law to post signs in accordance with the law in English and Spanish at each entrance clearly visible to the public.

The signs say: Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly.

Business owners also are required to post signage if they want to disallow concealed handguns in their businesses.

They have to post both signs in English and Spanish if they want to ban all guns in, Galvan said.

The new law bans guns at schools, courts and jails. Bars, polling places and sanctioned sporting events remain off limits, too.

Government meetings also can be designated gun-free with a notice.

The law still will ban handguns from certain public places including churches, hospitals, correctional facilities, and some places where alcohol is served or sold.

Gun holders who ignore those signs risk violating state trespassing laws and could face penalties and fines.

Galvan said one thing that concerns people about the new law is the role the police play in asking gun owners whether they have a license to carry or not.

“So now we have to have reason to ask,” he said. “They have to be causing a disturbance or breaking the law before we can ask to see that license.”

So, now anybody can walk around with a gun even if he or she is not licensed too and police are not allowed to ask.

“Because if we ask, we are violating their civil rights,” Galvan said. “It can be argued in court that I didn’t have probable cause to ask.”

Did you know?

* There are about 27 million people in the state of Texas and more than 20 million are registered gun owners.

* Between Sept. 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015, about 170 gun licenses were issued in San Benito.

* Between Sep 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015, about 1,701 gun licenses were issued in Cameron County.