The new year brought a new law that’s generated a lot of heat in Texas – the open carry of handguns. Here's a look at what open carry means for Texas.
1. There’s lots of confusion out there about open carry -- what exactly is it?
In Texas, you can now openly carry a handgun – in a hip or shoulder holster. You don’t need to conceal a gun like you did in the past.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the open carry bill into law in June.
In Texas, in order to openly carry a gun, you have to have a concealed-handgun license. You have to be at least 21. You have to have a clean criminal and psychological record. You also have to complete classroom training and pass a shooting test.
About 925,000 Texans have concealed handgun licenses – that’s about 3 percent of the population.
2. You can't carry a gun anywhere you want.
Areas that were considered gun-free zones in the past will remain gun-free zones. Places like schools, polling places, courtrooms, and secured areas of airports.
Both Dallas and Fort Worth prohibit handguns at City Council or other governmental meetings, as well as high school, college or professional sporting events on city property.
Businesses can choose whether to ban guns – but they have to post signs.
3. Why is open carry so controversial?
Some are uncomfortable with the idea of going into a store and seeing someone carrying gun in a holster out in the open – they find it upsetting.
Opponents say it will also be tougher for police to spot criminals.
When the Texas Legislature considered open carry last year, Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America issued a statement against open carry: “Despite opposition to the open carry of handguns from over two-thirds of Texans and 75 percent of police chiefs in Texas, both the Texas Senate and House prioritized these bills this session,” the group said. “Texas moms, gun violence survivors, gun owners, and law enforcement have testified in opposition to the expansion of handguns in Texas.”
“As a gun owning Texas mom, I am ashamed of our Texas lawmakers who voted in favor of extremist interests and petty politics instead of representing the majority of Texans who oppose the open carry of handguns,” said Angela Turner, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense.
Supporters of open carry say that the opponents are overreacting – and that not much will change. They note that most other states already allow open carry. Texas is the 45th state.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently spoke on NBC’s "Meet The Press" – and he says the new law won’t create a panic in Texas.
“This is just propaganda by those who either don’t like guns or who are afraid of guns," Patrick said. "I respect some people don’t like them, but don’t stop us who love guns, who love the Second Amendment, from being able to protect ourselves, our families, our businesses and our friends.”
C.J. Grisham, the head of the group Open Carry Texas, talked with KERA about gun laws in Texas. “If I can't defend myself from a threat, I will not go there,” Grisham said. “I don't believe in gun-free zones. I don't believe that they deserve my money. Because quite frankly, there is not a single place in this country that is immune from criminal activity. And while it may be a rare instance in which that place is targeted, the fact of the matter is I don't want to be a victim. I will not go someplace that I can't defend myself and I can't defend my family.”
Listen to Grisham's interview here.
4. Where do businesses stand on open carry in Texas?
Several businesses are banning open carry – the list includes Whataburger, as well as Whole Foods, Torchy’s Tacos and HEB, the grocery store chain.
Other businesses are allowing open carry – those places include Kroger and Home Depot.
Some places are allowing guns in stores, but only if the guns are concealed -- including HEB.
Then there’s a popular barbecue joint in the Houston suburbs – Brooks Place – that’s offering a 10 percent discount to customers who openly carry guns. A coupon on its website says: “Thank you for carrying your gun today.”
Central Track has created a list of Dallas-area restaurants and businesses that are opting out of open carry.
Eater takes a look at how restaurants around Texas are responding to open carry.
Here's a list of Texas businesses that are opting out of open carry, according to Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense.
5. How have cities and police departments been getting ready for open carry?
Cities and police departments are trying to get word out – several across the state have posted public service announcement videos on YouTube.
Here’s a video that Round Rock put on its YouTube page:
Police departments across the state have spent the past few months training officers on the new law.
The city of Dallas trained its 311 and 911 call-takers on the new laws so they can answer questions from callers.
6. How are schools preparing?
Dallas ISD has posted a note on its website reminding folks that it remains illegal to bring a firearm onto school property.
Dallas ISD has posted a video on YouTube that features Craig Miller, the school district’s chief of police. He says there will be new signs on schools that state licensed gun holders still cannot enter a school with a firearm.
"There’s going to be some signs that talk about open carry," Miller says in the video. "For people who are watching this video, the most important thing to know is you still can’t take a gun into a school, a teacher can’t take a gun into school, a staff, a student, no one can come into a school even if you have a CHL license."
The Dallas school district also notes it remains illegal for a licensed gun holder to bring a firearm to school functions, including sporting events and field trips.
About campus carry
Later this year, another gun law called campus carry goes into effect in Texas. Guns must be concealed at colleges. Campuses are trying to figure out how the new law will work. Private colleges can opt out -- and several have announced they are doing so.
Learn more about the new gun laws from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Listen to C.J. Grisham's interview here.