By his own account, Larry Ward is a typical Lake Highlands resident. He lives here. He works here.

And he carries a gun here.

“Everyone that I know has a gun in their car,” Ward says. “I’m just doing it legally.”

Ward and his wife are concealed-weapon license holders, registered with the State of Texas to legally carry a handgun.

The Wards have helped Lake Highlands achieve a distinction among the State’s 2,256 Zip Codes: A portion of our neighborhood ranks 39th in the number of concealed weapon license holders.

“I am shocked Lake Highlands has such a high rate of holders,” says Tony Crawford, a sergeant with the Northeast Police Division.

“As far as crime, this area does not stand out more than any other area. It’s still a very sought-out area to live and raise children.”

The Law

Texas rifle and shotgun owners always have been legally allowed to carry their guns in plain view, except in prohibited places identified by the State Legislature.

However, only law enforcement and military personnel were legally allowed to carry loaded, concealed weapons – at least, that was the law until September 1995. That’s when the State Legislature passed Senate Bill 60, which became effective in January.

After passing a handgun safety class, Texas residents over the age of 21 can now fork over a $140 license fee and receive a concealed weapon license.

Each month, the Texas Department of Public Safety compiles information about the number of concealed weapon license holders in each Texas Zip Code.

According to the State, residents of Zip Code 75043 in Garland have more concealed weapon licenses than any other portion of the State.

Among the 47 Dallas-area Zip Codes, 75243 in Lake Highlands north of Royal Lane ranks behind only 75228/Casa View, east of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks, north of Samuell Boulevard, south of LBJ and west of the City limits; 75229, north of Walnut Hill, south of Royal Lane, east of the Dallas Tollway and west to the City limits; and 75248/Prestonwood, north of Belt Line, east of the Dallas Tollway, south of County Line and west of Coit.

A Handgun Advocate

Lake Highlands resident Ron Weiss taught his daughter to shoot a gun when she was six years old.

“Kids can get into anything. If you make guns the forbidden fruit, it makes them more tempting,” says Weiss, who keeps several guns at his home and carries one virtually everywhere he goes.

Weiss owns a marketing company, and as a sidelight he teaches neighborhood gun instruction classes certified by the Department of Public Safety. He also has taught classes for the National Rifle Association.

Guns are part of Weiss’ daily life, so he says it was imperative that his daughter learn gun safety at an early age.

“I am a more patient person when I know I have the means to defend myself against anything,” he says. “I imagine Chuck Norris is more confident because of the skills he has. That’s what the concealed weapon law does.”

“An armed society is a polite society.”

As long as gun owners practice gun safety, Weiss says, society will be better off because more people will be able to protect themselves from criminals.

“If the criminals know there’s a high percentage of gun ownership in Lake Highlands, criminals are going to be less likely to commit crimes,” Weiss says.

People who are scared of guns simply don’t know how to use them safely, he says.

“I think it is an irrational fear, because it’s just a little machine,” Weiss says. “It’s like saying: I hate bikes.”

So Weiss does what he can to educate his neighbors about the issue.

“We don’t teach people to kill. The purpose of deadly force is to stop an attack,” Weiss says.

Weiss says 80 percent of his students are men, and the number one reason they obtain a license is to carry a gun in their cars.

Weiss says concealed weapon classes stress safety to prevent accidents from occurring.

“I’ve never heard of a gun-related accident not involving some mental lapse,” Weiss says.

A Handgun Opponent

Neighborhood resident Bill Maxwell has five children. He has never had a family member or friend injured or killed by a gun.

But Maxwell says he has a simple philosophy: More guns mean more danger.

“If you went to the ballgame, and everybody in the stadium had a gun, it doesn’t take much imagination to see what’s wrong with that philosophy,” he says.

A past president of the Dallas Peace Center, Maxwell has been affiliated with the organization for 10 years. He believes people buy guns as a result of their irrational fear about our society.

“It’s interesting to me if you ask people in Plano, Richardson or Lake Highlands what they’re scared most about, they say violence against their family,” Maxwell says.

“If you ask people in inner cities, they say financial security and food for their family. It’s uncommon to be victimized by a burglar. It’s most common for it to occur by family members and others involved in a domestic dispute,” Maxwell says.

Maxwell says many people are out-of-touch with reality because they are isolated in suburban bubbles.

“People have the tendency to withdraw from life. They’re more dependent on negative information from the media, rather than doing their own sampling and testing of the water themselves,” Maxwell says.

Maxwell sees the increasing numbers of guns in America as synonymous to the nuclear weapons buildup.

People are buying guns out of fear, which was the essence of the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) policy operative during the Cold War, he says.

“It’s very similar to the arms race,” Maxwell says.

Maxwell says there always is going to be that one story in the news substantiating carrying a gun – for example, a lunatic opening fire in a restaurant and being gunned down by a concealed-handgun-toting hero.

“The more handguns out in the population, the greater chance you have of being killed by them,” he says.

Rifles and shotguns have a place in society, Maxwell says, but handguns don’t because they’re “anti-personal.”

“You don’t shoot rabbits with handguns, you shoot people,” Maxwell says.

Why Lake Highlands?

Sign-ups at nearby shooting ranges have increased since the concealed handgun law passed, according to shooting-range owners.

Tom Mannewitz, owner of TargetMaster shooting range at 1717 S. Jupiter, says his customers have increased steadily since the concealed handgun law passed.

“We have noticed more women coming in on their own rather than coming with husbands,” Mannewitz says.

Neighborhood resident Mike Pappas, Precinct 1 constable, says it’s obvious that people carry handguns illegally, but the large number of license-holders in Lake Highlands indicates many neighborhood residents are law-abiding citizens.

Pappas says he believes most residents aren’t concerned about safety around their own homes, but feel they need a gun when venturing out of the neighborhood.

Pappas says carrying guns is like any other dangerous activity, such as flying an airplane: Gun ownership must be taken seriously, and the gun owner must be properly trained.

From a law enforcement officer’s standpoint, the concealed weapon law makes officers’ jobs safer, Pappas says.

Thanks to the concealed weapon law’s statewide registration of gun owners, when a police officer checks a license plate number after pulling someone over, the officer can find out within seconds if the person is a concealed weapon license holder, Pappas says.

When approaching the window of a car, “knowing a pistol is in the car gives you a head up,” Pappas says.

“You never know what kind of mental state the person is going to be in.”

A Shooting Victim

Northeast Police Division Sgt. Tony Crawford knows about handguns firsthand: Several years ago, he was shot and paralyzed by a gun-wielding teenager near Lakewood Elementary School. The teen had taken his father’s gun from his house.

“I think if people buy a gun, it’s strictly because they’ve been a victim, or because they know a victim of crime,” Crawford says.

The combination of knowing a victim and the media bombarding us with images of crime often creates paranoia, Crawford says.

Guns, like automobiles, can alter people’s character for the worse, Crawford says.

There are many “mild-mannered, caring people” who step into a car and instantly become a “road warrior,” Crawford says.

But when it comes to guns, Crawford says deciding whether to carry a handgun is a personal choice.

“To me, I think it boils down to what makes a person feel comfortable. If that’s what they need in life for a happy existence, that’s fine. As long as someone is a trained, law-abiding and tempered citizen, I don’t have a problem with them carrying a gun,” Crawford says.

“As far as a need, I don’t think it’s a need for anyone to carry a gun.”