I was watching some of the proceedings in the Texas House of Representatives as they discussed HB910, which is the proposed open carry legislation. Not out of any personal interest in open carry, but because usually discussions of this type may also have an impact on the rest of the gun owners in the state. Some of the amendments proposed would indeed have an impact. One was on knives, one was on the penalties for violating certain rules, and so on. One of the amendments that came up was one that was asking cities of 1,000,000 or more people (which was amended to be 750,000 or more, so as to include our state capitol) to “opt out” of allowing open carry. This reminded me of something that happened not to long ago where someone else had committed the crime of location.
First we are going to use a “Reductio Ad Absurdum” argument, but it does serve to illustrate the point. Let’s set up a scenario… You are a perfectly law-abiding citizen and have no criminal record. Some luddite county has decided to ban all cell phones in their county, and the mere possession of them means jail time and a criminal record. While you are in a neighboring county you are perfectly legal, and have committed no crime. With a move of 6 inches, you have gone from being a perfectly law-abiding citizen, to a criminal. You have just committed the crime of location. The mere act of changing your latitude and longitude has apparently changed you from June Cleaver to Bonnie Parker.
In certain instances, this mere change in location can make you a felon, even if you have done nothing else wrong. This is what happened to Shaneen Allen. She was a perfectly law-abiding citizen who had done nothing wrong. Then she crossed a state line, and she had gone from an upstanding member of society to a felon. I have yet to see a clear marker of the actual state line drawn across any interstate or road. Even the lines marking where you are and where you aren’t, are blurry. Would they draw these lines on the roads entering into or leaving a county, or a city? How often do those boundaries change? Hell, even Four Corners, a national monument to state lines is significantly wrong. If they can’t get state lines right, then county or city lines are going to be perfect? If a road is used as the marking point of a city’s boundaries, which side of the road counts? Would I be perfectly legal going to the store, but breaking the law on my return trip?
While I can be a little more forgiving on legislation that encompasses an entire state, creating a crime of location within a state is unacceptable. Unless you live in a state border town, like Texarkana or Memphis, in which case you probably have other issues (Namely that you live in Texarkana or Memphis), you shouldn’t have to worry about where you are in order to remain legal.
I don’t live in one of the big four cities in Texas, but I do work in one and I travel there frequently, both for work and for other reasons (Some good eating, the shooting range I go to, etc.). While the open carry legislation doesn’t really affect me directly, if this “crime of location” amendment had passed, how difficult would it have been to then apply it to concealed carry, for consistency’s sake? Then it does affect me, directly. It actually affects just about any gun owner in the state, as at that point, they would be required to drive around one of the large cities, instead of through it in order to remain legal. A one hour trip straight across Houston would then become a 4 hour jaunt trying to route around it. Add to that the issue of actual city limits, and incorporated areas and it gets even more muddled.
I think if lawmakers really want to enact “sensible” laws, they should focus more on what someone does than on where they are. The crime of location should not be a crime.
(Thankfully, the amendment adding the crime of location to the Texas Open Carry bill did not pass.)