By Joe Reavis
Open carry of handguns in Texas, which will be allowed beginning Jan. 1, 2016, is not expected to be much of a change from the concealed carry law that has been in effect for 20 years, except that guns can be seen by others.
The Texas Legislature approved open carry for concealed handgun license holders during its biennial session this spring and Gov. Greg Abbott affixed his signature to the law in June.
Simply, anyone who holds a concealed handgun license will be able to wear a gun in a shoulder or waist holster for others to see. Carrying of handguns has been allowed in Texas since 1995, but they had to remain hidden.
“We don’t expect any issues,” Police Chief Mike Sullivan said. “There are no immediate indications that we have any problems.”
Like the concealed handgun law, there are some restrictions as to where a gun owner can take a weapon. Any business or private property owner can prohibit guns on their property. Failure to comply with the prohibition can result in a criminal trespassing charge with penalties of up to a year in jail and fine of up to $4,000.
Generally, signs are posted at businesses that wish to ban guns on their premises. The sign provides notice without having to confront a gun owner. An oral notice is also permitted.
Signage to give notice that guns are not permitted at a location is specific in design and wording. The design dictates that wording must be in inch-tall block letters in a color that contrasts with the background of the sign, and notice must be given in English and Spanish.
Required wording to prohibit concealed handguns reads: “Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by holder of license to carry a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (concealed handgun law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.”
With the new open carry law, two signs will be required to prohibit handguns on a property, the second sign referencing Section 30.07 of the Penal Code.
Signs also must be displayed in locations that are clearly visible to the public.
Making sure the signs are compliant is important. Anything that does not conform, such as the type size, can nullify the intent, although verbal notice can still suffice, and there are groups and individuals checking the signage to determine if it meets code.
Sullivan reported that he does not anticipate open carry to be banned in businesses when that law takes effect.
There are more than 800,000 persons in Texas who have obtained concealed handgun licenses and will be legally allowed to carry their pistols in the open next year. But, the number is greater than that because the Texas law allows persons legally allowed to carry handguns in 41 other states to openly carry here.
Texas requires that a person be at least 21 years to obtain a concealed handgun permit, and it requires classroom training. Other states are not as strict, requiring little or no training.
The Farmersville police chief noted that he expects that openly carrying handguns will tried by a number of people when the law is new, but over time as the novelty wears off there will be fewer guns in sight.
He does caution people to consider carefully before drawing a gun because the act of merely pointing a weapon at another is grounds for an aggravated assault charge.
There will remain a few places in which carrying a handgun is illegal, such as bars, school sporting events, correctional facilities, hospitals, amusement parks, churches and meetings of governmental entities.
Passage of the open carry law this year was contentious, with the supporters and opponents divided along political party lines. Republican senators and representatives, but virtue of their majority in both state houses, carried the day in favor of the new law.
A companion law that also passed this year and has been signed by the governor, will allow persons to carry handguns on college campuses, including students who are at least 21 years of age. The campus carry law takes effect in August 2016 at 4-year institutions and in August 2017 at community colleges.