When you think of Texas, you probably think of a magical wonderland of beer, brisket, and high-powered weaponry, all proudly put on display as if to say, “This is America, and we have won it.”

If you’re indeed thinking that, you’re absolutely right, of course; but you may be surprised to know that Texas is just one of a handful of states still harboring an outright ban on the open carry of handguns.

During the past three legislative sessions (the Texas legislature meets every other year,) elected officials have tried and failed to cobble together a viable open carry bill; but Greg Abbott, current Attorney General and Governor-elect, pledged during his campaign to make open carry happen for gun-loving Texans, and he doesn’t seem to be backing down.

Via Fox News:

“If open carry is good enough for Massachusetts, it’s good enough for the state of Texas,” Abbott said the day after his election last month.

And if Texas, which allows concealed handguns, embraces open carry — rolling back a 140-year ban — it would be the largest state to have done so.

Open carry drew wide support in the 2014 statewide election, and at least six bills have already been filed for the upcoming session, which starts in January. Abbott has already pledged to sign one into law if sent to his desk.

Coni Ross, a 63-year-old rancher in Blanco, carries a handgun in her purse for personal protection and said she’d like the option to carry it openly on her belt if she could. She already does when she’s on her ranch and feels comfortable with her gun by her side.

“In one-and-a-half seconds, a man can run 25 feet with a knife in his hands and stab you before you get your gun out,” Ross said. “If your weapon is concealed you’re dead.”

Coni Ross is absolutely right, and brings up an excellent point: the Texas gun culture isn’t rooted in a perverse desire to brandish exciting-looking weapons at the huddled masses, but in a desire to protect lives and property.

Of course, not everyone subscribes to Coni’s way of thinking, and that has caused trouble for open carry advocates. Earlier this year, open carry activists made headlines after legally carrying rifles in public as a manner of protest against laws they deem restrictive and unconstitutional:

The open-carry protests, which began gaining notice last year but picked up steam in May, have spurred some businesses to request patrons keep guns off their premises, saying the weapons spook customers. The rallies have also sparked a response from gun-control activists, who have tried to pressure businesses into publicly opposing guns.

After open-carry activists brought rifles into a Dallas-area Chipotle on May 17, the company in a statement asked customers to leave guns outside, explaining that “the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers.”

After that announcement, the National Rifle Association published a blog post decrying the Texas open-carry protests as “downright scary.” Four days later, NRA Executive Director Chris W. Cox apologized for the post, which was removed from the site.

Texas Carry and other advocacy groups issued a statement on May 23 vowing to “not go into corporate businesses without prior permission, preferably not at all.” Mr. Holcomb and C.J. Grisham, the president of the group Open Carry Texas, say the statement reflects their groups’ respect for private property and their desire to focus the conversation on their legislative goals.

As someone who saw this little drama play out first hand, I can tell you that it was a complete mess. The protests caused a split even within the open carry advocate community, with many supporters of looser regulations accusing those who chose to carry rifles into their local Starbucks of attempting to create a media circus, as opposed to an environment that would be friendly to new legislation.

The thing about guns is that if you’ve never been exposed to them, they can look intimidating. This is a universal truth that any gun lover should at the very least acknowledge, because many people who have concerns about open carry aren’t harboring an irrational hatred for the Constitution, but a lack of knowledge about Texas law, or why open carry is better for self-defense than concealed carry.

Texas may be ready for open carry, but if legislators want to send a bill to the Governor’s desk during the upcoming legislative session, they’re going to have to be very careful, and very productive, in the way that they address the public’s concerns on the issue. The non-political classes have been fed a bill of goods by anti-gun activists, and rather than brushing resulting concerns aside, we should be ready with an arsenal (gun pun!) of educational material on the virtues of the Second Amendment, the heavy responsibilities and duties that come along with gun ownership, and a willingness to hash out the “conversation” that so many progressives are insisting upon.

Believe me, if there’s anyone in the world capable of “having a conversation” about a fundamental right, and winning it, it’s a Texan.