It was difficult last week to listen to gun talk at the Texas Capitol and gun talk at the Hays County Commissioners Court and not wonder whether the discussions were taking place in the same state.
The first piece of legislation to clear through the Texas House and Senate this session was a bill expanding self-defense claims. The governor signed it, and now Texans who use lethal force to protect themselves from attack can do so in their automobiles just as they would their homes. Feel threatened? Open fire. Texas juries petit and grand have been historically sympathetic to self-defense claims, so the billís value in changing lives for the better is limited.
About 30 miles south of the state capitol, Hays County Commissioners took the first steps to restrict the use of firearms in the unincorporated areas of the county. Hays County is gun friendly, just like the rest of Texas, but population growth is forcing commissioners to look at restricting the use of firearms.
Thatís because the commissioners are dealing with a real death and not the hypothetical threats to life and limb that propelled the gun legislation through both legislative chambers and onto the governorís desk. Daniel Galicia, 7, was killed when a round fired apparently by a neighbor shooting at targets hit him. The neighbor, Jose Barrera Espitia, was jailed on a charge of manslaughter. He told police that he had no idea he had hit the boy.
So, while the Legislature expanded gun rights because of something that might happen, Hays County Commissioners appointed a committee to restrict gun rights because of something that did happen.
Gun advocates would be hard pressed to make a coherent argument against the action contemplated by the Commissioners Court. Living in close proximity means compromise. And in this case, the life-and-death issues weighing in the balance are not an abstraction.
Gun rights, like all rights, are not absolute. If legislators are at all interested in learning that lesson especially as it applies to guns they should consult with the Galicia and Espitia families, whose lives were shattered by a bullet. Bear in mind, that bullet was perfectly legal right up to the moment that it struck a 7-year-old boy.