As of Jan. 1, it’s a new world in Texas. Or a throwback to the past, depending on how you look at it.
For the first time in more than a century, licensed Texans will be free to walk the streets, or travel the state, openly wearing their holstered handguns.
Law enforcers have a piece of advice for Texans.
“Over and above everything, remain calm,” said Terry Grisham, executive administrator at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department. “The world as we know it isn’t going to start turning backward on its axis when this goes into effect.”
He and others stress that the people who will be openly carrying their guns are the same people who have been carrying their handguns concealed in Texas for 20 years.
They’ve just now taken their jackets off.
OPEN CARRY LAW TAKES EFFECT JAN. 1
The open carry law, which lets licensed Texans openly carry their holstered handguns, takes effect Jan. 1.
Who can openly carry guns? Those eligible for a license to carry, which is needed to legally tote holstered handguns openly or concealed, must be 21, have a clean criminal record, take a class and pay a fee. They must have lived in Texas for at least six months, pass a background check for mental and criminal histories and not be chemically dependent or delinquent on taxes or child support.
Do people who already have a concealed handgun license have to get a new license to carry openly? No. The CHL covers the license holder. When it is renewed, it will be a renamed License to Carry and will allow open or concealed carry.
Is additional training needed to openly carry? No, but new training will be added to classes which license holders will get the next time they renew their license.
How can Texans openly carry guns? Handguns carried openly must be in a shoulder or belt holster. Retention holsters are recommended but not required.
What should you do if you see someone carrying a handgun and are worried for your safety? Call your local law enforcement agency or flag down an officer. Officials recommend that you say why you feel worried or threatened.
What are police allowed to ask or not ask when questioning someone? Depends on whom you ask. If it’s a consensual encounter, police may ask if a person has a license to carry but if the person is free to leave, they don’t have to show it. If a person is being legally arrested on a different charge, they may also be arrested for a failure to show ID. State officials say there’s nothing to stop an officer from asking a person if they are licensed to carry a handgun. There’s a section in the government code that requires license holders to show their license to any law enforcer who asks for it. But there’s no criminal penalty for someone who does not comply. Weatherford police say that “if you are approached by a peace officer, you are required to present your identification and handgun license to prove that you are not subject to arrest under 46.02 of the Penal Code.”
Can police stop and question someone they see carrying a weapon?State officials say police can stop and ask anyone anything during a “consensual encounter.” Local law enforcers say that if a person is openly carrying a handgun, but not doing anything suspicious and law enforcers have no reason to stop and question that person, then he or she should not be stopped or detained just for openly carrying.
Where can Texans openly carry guns? Texans may openly carry guns the same places they carry concealed guns. Guns are not allowed in several locations, including schools, election sites, racetracks, restricted areas of airports, courtrooms, rooms where government officials such as the city council and county commissioners are meeting, correctional facilities, and anywhere within 1,000 feet of an execution site on the day of an execution.
Can Texans carry them into private businesses? Business owners who want to stop guns from being carried openly or concealed on their premises must post two signs —30.07 (preventing open carry) and30.06 (preventing concealed carry). Both or either sign must be posted at any entrance to the building and list in contrasting colors, using letters at least an inch tall, a 38-word message in English and Spanish. Other businesses may post signs noting that the “unlicensed possession” of a handgun on the premises, such as convenience stores and liquor stores, is a felony.
Can handguns carried openly or concealed be loaded? Yes
What about campus carry? Texans may carry concealed handguns on parts of some college campuses starting Aug. 1, 2016. A number of private colleges, including TCU, Rice University and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, have opted out of the law, as they are allowed to do. Public universities may specify areas on campus where guns are not allowed but they cannot completely ban concealed handguns on campus. The law takes effect Aug. 1, 2017, for public junior colleges.
How many other states allow open carry? While some portions of the law may differ, 45 states allow open carry, according to the former president of the National Rifle Association.
Sources: Texas Department of Public Safety, Star-Telegram research