Tallying the costs of open carry

But even if it were true that licensed carriers rarely hurt anyone physically, laws designed to further accommodate carriers still present other, unanticipated intrusions. Consider the Quakers of Live Oak Friends Meeting in Houston. As committed pacifists who generally deplore guns, the Friends debated for months about whether and how to respond to open-carry laws. To effectively ban guns under the new law, the Quakers would have to plaster their place of worship with signage, defacing a building that is literally a work of art—a James Turrell skyspace. “The signs are massive and ugly and must be placed at every entrance,” says Katharine Jager, a member of the Meeting. “This is a problem because we have so many doors—twenty in total.”

To keep out both open and concealed guns, the Friends would need to post a whopping 40 signs. Texas law specifies one-inch-tall letters, with text in English and Spanish. Any deviation from the exact language provided (even correcting the spelling errors in the state’s Spanish translation) might invalidate a sign, a caveat that licensed carriers actually exploit: Gun-rights advocates have created a website and an iPhone app to track posted locations, noting any noncompliant signs they think they can ignore. “All of our attempts to create different language that more accurately reflects our values and our tradition of pacifism fail in the face of these laws,” Jager says. “It’s appalling.” Similarly, Catholic bishops in Tyler and Dallas and the chancellor of the El Paso diocese also oppose open carry in churches, but that position has alienated some of their gun-carrying parishioners and has been an ongoing topic of debate among Texas Catholics.