January 1, 2016, is the effective date of the new open carry law in Texas. Campus carry is part of the law; however, the campus carry provisions are not effective until August 1, 2016. A Concealed Handgun License (CHL) or equivalent gun license issued from another state is required to carry a handgun, whether openly or concealed. Police, lawyers and the justice community anticipate future questions and answers as enforcement issues arise. There are specific locations where all firearms are prohibited and private storeowners may ban open and concealed handgun carry at their locations with proper signage. The open carry debates raised awareness among many Texans, busy sharing information about the new law, as is featured in the Open Carry Texas group publication, Frequently Asked Questions Open Carry. Attorneys well-versed in Texas gun and carry law advise individual and business clients about the new laws.
New law ends Texas’ open carry handgun prohibition of more than hundred years.
Well over 100 years ago, back in 1871, the Texas legislature restricted handgun carrying. In 1995, the concealed carry law first allowed Texans to carry handguns. Meanwhile, carrying long guns is historically unrestricted in Texas; many people grew up accustomed to gun racks in pickups. Some opponents of open carry laws suggest they mark a return to the Wild West, meanwhile many Texans consider what open carry means to them. A consensus among law enforcement supposes a few die-hard folks will carry shiny pistols in decorative belt and shoulder holsters, without their jackets, under which the piece has likely always been. Meanwhile, news outlets release public service announcement videos for the benefit of people who might not be familiar with open carry or the new law, watch “What to do?” – An Open Carry PSA.
A Texas CHL is required to open and conceal-carry holstered handguns.
Texas law requires any individual carrying a handgun, whether open or concealed, to have a current and valid CHL. Out-of-state residents must have their state’s equivalent gun license. Long guns, such as hunting rifles and shotguns may still be carried without a CHL. Texans who do not have a current and valid CHL can obtain one from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) if all the eligibility requirements are satisfied. Generally, to be eligible to apply for a CHL an applicant 21 years of age, legally residing in Texas for 6 months, and without any felony convictions or pending charges or recent history of mental disability, can take a qualified CHL instruction class and submit proof to DPS and pay a standard fee to obtain a CHL.[i]
There can be exceptions and blocks to CHL eligibility such as a final determination of child support delinquency, determination of family violence[ii], or is restricted by a protective court order affecting a spousal relationship. Convictions of certain crimes in addition to felonies can block an individual from CHL eligibility. An attorney can help review the law and advise clients if they are eligible to obtain a CHL and whether any exceptions to rules may apply to individual circumstances.
It is important to note that the open carry law requires a handgun (loaded/unloaded) be kept securely in a shoulder or belt holster. Open carry also applies to vehicles, and if you have a CHL your holstered handgun no longer needs to be concealed, but must be within arm’s reach within the vehicle.[iii]
The law prohibits carrying open and concealed handguns in certain locations, and private storeowners can prohibit you from carrying a handgun on their premises.
Texas law prohibits carrying any handgun, openly or concealed, in certain places. Generally, it is unlawful to carry a handgun in schools, school grounds, and school property where school activities and sporting events take place, government offices, polling places, racetracks, airports and perimeters, and in bar-type establishments making more than 51% revenue from the sale of alcohol. Moreover, campus carry law does not take effect until August 1, 2016.
A CHL and a lawfully carried gun do not give anyone a right to carry a handgun in a private business. Establishments wishing to ban handguns on their premises may lawfully create such a gun ban by conspicuously displaying the legally required sign. Sign 30.06 (preventing concealed carry) and a 30.07 sign (preventing open carry) must meet Texas state law requirements to be considered legally effective to provide patrons with notice of a gun ban on premises[iv]. Additionally, any private business owner may at their discretion, ask someone carrying a handgun to leave the premises, and a failure to comply may subject the individual to criminal trespass and unlawful carry charges.
Law enforcement is being trained in the new law, and how and when a CHL must be produced.
Lawyers and individuals in the criminal justice system may be called to interpret how the new open carry law applies to certain individuals and situations. While the law requires an individual to have a valid CHL to open or conceal carry a handgun, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion an individual is committing or committed a crime, to demand them to produce and show their CHL.[v] A police officer may ask an open carrier to see their CHL, and that individual has the right to refuse to produce the CHL.
There are a significant number of law enforcement personnel in the state of Texas and training every individual on the new handgun laws is an extensive process. It is possible a law enforcement officer could make an arrest or improper demand to produce a CHL. It is reasonable to expect arrests and charges that can be challenged in court as legal issues arise.
The Barrows Firm can provide additional information and resources on carrying a handgun in Texas and how the new law intersects with the Family Code.
If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center. You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter and Facebook.
[i] Texas Department of Public Safety, Handgun Licensing.
[ii] Texas Family Code, Protective Orders and Family Violence.
[iii] OpenCarryTexas.org, Frequently Asked Questions Open Carry.
[iv] Texas Department of Public Safety, New laws for Handgun Licensing Program.
[v] See HNiii above.