To read local and national news, one could draw the conclusion that Texan’s are more concerned about the coming open carry law that they are about tornadoes, floods and blizzards. Perhaps the reality is, it is the media that is more concerned about the change in Texas gun laws.
Forty-four other states already allow some form of open carry. In fact, only New York, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, and California ban open carry. Washington, D.C. also bans open carry. Rather than doing something odd, Texas is simply joining the norm of allowing open carry.
Texas; however, is only allowing open carry by licensed individuals under the new law signed last summer by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The license requires fingerprinting, a Texas Department of Public Safety background check, classroom training and a shooting qualification and safety test. It also requires the holder to pay a fee to the state for permission to exercise a Constitutional right.
Businesses and government officials are reported to be scrambling to figure out what to do when licensed Texans are, once again, allowed to exercise their Constitutional right to keep and publicly bear arms.
Justin Wood, a chief prosecutor in the office of Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson seemed to show more common sense than most public officials quoted on the issue. During a training session, the assistant district attorney actually spoke with his counterparts in Oklahoma where open carry was legalized in 2012.
“We talked to our friends in Oklahoma who said there really hasn’t been much significant change,” Wood told Houston Chronicle reporter Gabrielle Banks. “Most concealed handgun license holders will probably continue to carry concealed.”
Banks seemed to want to instill more fear in the public. The quote above doesn’t appear until the very last paragraph of the article while her first paragraph sets a different tone.
As the countdown to open carry in Texas draws near, county and city officials have begun hunkering down with employees to prepare them for interactions – at the tax office, pools, libraries, community centers and other public sites – with visibly armed civilians.
Hunkering down is a phrase popularized by Harris County Judge (the county’s CEO) Ed Emmet. He used the phrase during a hurricane as an instruction to residents about sheltering in place during dangerous storms.
The article goes on to state “the law has sparked some concern among employees…” A more accurate description might be that it raised questions about how employees should react as they see law abiding Texans exercising their legal rights.
The law is clear, and has been made more clear by opinions from the Texas governor and attorney general about where citizens can and cannot openly carry their handguns.
Texans with concealed handgun licenses may not carry in courtrooms or in government meetings that are subject to open records requests like city council or commissioners’ court meetings.
Business leaders are also preparing for what they will do about open carry on their private property. Texas law allows businesses to opt out of open carry, or even concealed carry, by placing appropriate signage at the entrance to their stores.
To prohibit open carry, a business must place what is known as a 30.07 sign in English and Spanish at all entrances to the business. The sign must carry the following language in at least 1” block letters in contrasting color from the background:
Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly.
To prohibit concealed carry, a 30.06 sign must be posted with the same conditions as the 30.07 sign:
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.
If the business wants to prohibit both concealed and open carry, both signs must be placed at all entrances to the building. Placing a 30.06 sign only still allows a licensee to openly carry. Conversely, posting a 30.07 sign only would still allow concealed carry.
Some businesses have already either made announcements or have started placing signs on the entrances to their stores. Breitbart Texas reported on Monday that San Antonio based H-E-B grocery stores will prohibit open carry and has already begun the process of placing 30.07 signs on their doors. The retailer will continue to allow concealed carry.
The Austin based Whole Foods grocery stores will not allow any firearms on their premises other than security guards, according to a report by CNN Money. Spokesman Michael Silverman told the news outlet that this is not a new policy. He said it has been the policy of the store since it was founded. He said they will have the new signage in place by January 1.
H-E-B spokesman Dya Campos said their company decided to only ban open carry. “We’ve always asked our customers to conceal their weapons,” Campos told CNN Money. “The only difference now is that we have to post signage.”
H-E-B has already begun posting the 30.07 signs. Whole Foods will have to post both 30.06 and 30.07 signs.
Whataburger, the state’s largest hamburger retailer, announced earlier this year that they would prohibit open carry only, Breitbart Texas reported in July. The San Antonio based company said they customers have expressed concern about seeing people openly carrying handguns.
Whataburger President and CEO Preston Atkinson said, in a written statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, “but we haven’t allowed the open carry of firearms in our restaurants for a long time. It’s a business decision we made a long time ago and have stood by, and I think it’s important you know why.” Concealed carry will continue to be allowed. The company has not yet said if it is posting the required 30.07 signs.
The Texas chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses told CNN Money they are seeing a mixed review from their members on the issue of open carry. “A lot of businesses still feel strongly about their [Second] Amendment rights to holding guns,” spokesperson Sarah Tober told CNN reporter Jackie Wattles.
Still other businesses have expressed concern or opposition about open carry in their place of business. Others have also expressed concern about the burdensome nature they perceive the required signage to be. Stores cannot simply place “no guns allowed” signs on their doors. To have legal effect, the properly worded and constructed signs must be placed at the entrances.
CNN Money reported that Target, Chopotle and Starbucks have yet to make public statements about the state’s new open carry law.
Businesses might also want to consider that nearly one million Texans have concealed carry licenses. The total as of December 2014 was listed by the Texas Department of Public Safety as being 826,957. Between September 2014 and August 2015, the state issued 57,081 new licenses, CNN Money reported.
January 1, 2016, Texas will join 44 other states in allowing some form of open carry of handguns. While the state did not go as far as some might have wanted, it will be one step closer to truly following the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.