Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis wants to expand gun rights in Texas, where the law currently bans residents from the open-carry of handguns in public.
The southern state generally allows the open-carry of long guns and the concealed carry of handguns with a license, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. A proposed law would allow Texans with concealed handgun licenses to wear a pistol on their hips in public spaces.
When asked by the Associated Press whether she supports the “open-carry” of handguns, Davis said, “Yes. And, state government should be sensitive to private property owners (including governmental, education, religious, health care, and other institutional facilities) to determine whether to allow open-carry on their own properties,” according to a questionnaire obtained by msnbc.
Background checks, she added, “should help ensure that only mentally stable, law-abiding citizens may carry, whether concealed or open.”
Davis’ opinion contradicts the general sentiment of her fellow Democrats in the deeply red state, but follows the view of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, her Republican gubernatorial rival. Abbott bought advertisements on websites last year inviting law-abiding gun owners in New York to move to Texas following the enactment of legislation expanding a ban on assault weapons in the eastern state.
“The Texas Democratic Party has and will always support the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment. We have also always supported common-sense firearm regulations that ensure public safety. In our opinion, ‘open-carry’ does not meet that threshold. There is little to no public safety justification for ‘open-carry,’” Emmanuel Garcia, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party, wrote in an email to msnbc.
Texas is among four other states - Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina - that forbid citizens from openly carrying a loaded gun, according to the gun-rights advocacy group OpenCarry.org.
Davis became a rising star among Democrats after she staged a 12-hour filibuster last June to protest restrictive abortion legislation. She raised $12.2 million in the last six months of 2013, a million dollars more than Abbott in the race for governor.
Davis voted in favor of a law passed last year that authorizes firearms in vehicles on college campuses in her state. But some Texans like Eric Reed don’t believe the senator is speaking truthfully in her answers.
“I am not buying it,” Reed, founder of Gun Rights Across America, told msnbc. “She has a history of lying, and I think Wendy Davis is playing politics right now.”
She is willing to “say whatever she needs to say to get elected,” he added.
Davis has supported background checks and opposed open-carry policies on college campuses, two policies the Gun Owners of America call “freedom issues,” Erich Pratt, the group’s director of communications said. Members disagree with her views on those two specifications, he added.
“We don’t consider her pro-gun. She has an ‘F’ rating on gun-related issues,” Pratt told msnbc. “The fact that she’s touting support for open-carry now may just be a way of deflecting attention away from the recent public relations problems that she’s been facing.”
Reed noted the ongoing gun debate occurring in Texas, where his group plans to lead several marches on Feb. 15 and throughout the year in support of open-carry.
“There’s continuous pressure that we’re putting on the state to pass an open-carry law because nobody wants to walk around with rifles and AR-15s and AK-47s. But we do it because they won’t let us open-carry a handgun,” he said.
Texas ranked 33 out of 50 states with an “F” grade on the 2013 scorecard jointly published in December by the Law Center and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The state enacted several laws that weakened gun regulation, including not requiring concealed weapon permit applicants to provide their social security numbers and eliminating certain misdemeanors as disqualifying factors for a concealed weapon permit.
But legislators passed one gun reform that allows police officers to seize firearms from a person in custody if they believe the individual poses a self or societal threat.
Davis has used her personal struggles of a young mother who overcame adversities and graduated from Harvard Law School as the centerpiece of her gubernatorial campaign. Abbott and his staff recently criticized Davis for embellishing details about her biography. She tweeted in response, saying her competitor “sunk to a new low,” making personal attacks on her family, education, and character.
The Texas gubernatorial election will take place on Nov. 4.