The new Texas open carry law goes into effect on January 1st, 2016. Texas currently allows open carry for rifles and shotguns, but has banned visible handguns since the years following the Civil War. Very soon, you will likely begin to see people in public legally packing handguns on their belts or secured in shoulder holsters. It will be interesting to see how popular open carry becomes, and how many will decide to participate. Texans have legally been able to carry concealed hand guns for years, and Texans with a CHL will not need a new license.
Who Can Open Carry?
In order to lawfully carry a pistol in the open, you have to be 21 years old. You need to have a license. Any person who meets the criteria to open carry will be approved. To lawfully carry, gun owners must be licensed by Texas or another state that has its own open carry laws. Texas has reciprocity with thirty other states. (The only state that allows anyone to open carry but does not require a license to do so is Vermont.) Section 411.172 of the Texas Government Code outlines conditions that disqualify a person from getting a license:
- Felony convictions
- Class A or B misdemeanor convictions within 5 years of applying (including DWI)
- Pending felony or misdemeanor criminal charges
- Chemical or alcohol dependency (meaning 2 convictions for alcohol or drug related offenses within 10 years)
- Protective or restraining orders
- Default of child support, student loans, taxes, or any other governmental fees
Can You Open Carry on Private Property?
Gun owners who are licensed can open carry on private property, unless the private property owner has a specific sign banning open carry. The sign is called a 30.07 sign, and the requirements can be found in Section 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code. If the business owner or property owner requests that you remove the weapon and you refuse, it may end up in a Criminal Trespass or an Unlawful Carry charge. You cannot carry at public sporting events. You still cannot carry in bars. Carrying a firearm inside bars or restaurants where alcohol is consumed on premises can be a felony if the business has a 51% sign.
Is Texas Ready for This?
What surprised me is how prevalent open carry is across the country. Texas is the 45th state to allow open carry. Still, Texas is the largest to do so. There are currently over 800,000 CHL holders in the state. What percentage of existing CHL holders will keep their weapons concealed or wear them on the belt? That will be interesting to see play out. Maybe public spaces will soon resemble the Wild West… or maybe open carry will be a fad. Who knows? For some, the idea will take some getting used to. For others it is a long time coming.