HOUSTON, Texas – The Houston Police Department is preparing for the new year and Texas’ new open carry law by publishing information designed to help eliminate confusion on the law.
The Q&A below was prepared by Houston Police Chief Charles A McClelland, Jr., Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson and Houston City Attorney Donna Edmundson. The Q&A was developed out of public hearings the department held with citizens.
Beginning January 1, 2016, people who hold a Texas Concealed Handgun License will be allowed to openly carry their handgun. Current law allows anyone to openly carry a rifle or shotgun. Only CHL holders will be allowed to openly carry a handgun under the new law signed in June by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
On December 9th, an open carry information meeting was held to present more information and take questions from the public about the new law. Following is a video of that event published by the Houston Police Department:
Following is the Q&A directly from the Houston Police Department’s website:
Question: If a person is open carrying a handgun, how does a police officer determine if he is carrying the handgun legally?
Answer: Constitutional carry did not pass in Texas, so a police officer has the right to ask you to prove that you have a CHL (Concealed Handgun License). If you are asked by a police officer to prove that you are allowed to carry a handgun, you must produce identification.
Question: If I see a person open carrying a handgun, should I call the police?
Answer: Yes you can call the police, but before you call, observe how the person is acting. If they are acting suspicious, or enter a building such as a school, then please give us a call. But, if they are simply at a gas station filling up their car, then they are probably a law abiding citizen who is legally open carrying.
Question: If you are walking down a street, and an officer approaches you, is it a voluntary encounter, or at this point am I “detained”?
Answer: Technically, you are temporarily detained so that the officer can check your license and make sure that you are legally able to carry a handgun.
Question: If I am open carrying a handgun, am I allowed to get out of my car, take the holster off my belt, and place it into the trunk of my car?
Answer: Yes you are able to do that.
Question: As a parent, I am concerned with my kids being around people open carrying a handgun. What do I tell my kids to do when they see someone with a pistol on their hip?
Answer: Again, it is situational. If your kids see someone in a grocery store shopping, they should not be alarmed if that person is carrying a handgun. But if they are at school, and they see a person (who is not a Police officer) carrying a gun, they should immediately tell someone and/or call 911.
Question: In a government building such as a police station, can someone carry a handgun?
Answer: Yes you can, but only in the areas that are open to the public. So if that person has to go to a portion of the building where a normal citizen would not be allowed, they are not allowed to carry a handgun. If you are in this position where you are not sure if you can carry or not, it is recommended that you leave your handgun in your vehicle.
Question: I am a teacher in an early college that is held within a Lone Star College campus. Early colleges count as an educational facility which means that since there are minors present in a school setting it is illegal to carry any type of weapon. Since I teach students who range in age from 14-18 years old, how will they be affected by “Campus Carry”?
Answer: These areas will be counted as an education facility where you will not be able to carry a weapon. The biggest thing that needs to be done is to have signs posted in the buildings designating where you can carry a concealed handgun and where you cannot.
Question: Will the presence of an open carried handgun during a verbal altercation between two people, elevate this altercation to an aggravated assault because a handgun has been “exhibited”?
Answer: No, it will not be considered aggravated assault as long as the person carrying the weapon was not threatening to use it.
Question: Since an open carried weapon must either be carried in a shoulder holster or a belt holster, will there be a set standard that constitutes what is considered a shoulder or belt holster?
Answer: Currently there is no standard that constitutes what is a shoulder or belt holster.
Question: If an officer sees me openly carrying a handgun in a shoulder or belt holster, is that officer legally able to ask me for proof that I have a CHL?
Answer: Yes, since constitutional carry did not pass, the officer is within his or her right to ask you for your license. Also, when you get your CHL, you are instructed that if a police officer asks you for your CHL license, you must provide it.
Question: If I am carrying a handgun, and I am approached by a police officer, what steps should I take to ensure that the police officer and myself both feel safe during this transaction?
Answer: Do as the officer asks. Tell the officer you are carrying a weapon and have a license to do so. Do not reach for the weapon, have the officer tell you what to do with the weapon. On houstonpolice.org there are videos that illustrate what you should when you are in contact with a police officer.
Question: Will we have access to information that simplifies the penal code down into easily understandable facts for the general public?
Answer: The police department will have information available on the basic facts of the open carry laws.
Question: Once a police officer determines that you are carrying a handgun legally, does the situation turn from the person being detained, to being a casual encounter?
Answer: Yes. After the person has proved that they are carrying a weapon legally, they are free to go as long as they only reason they were stopped was for proof for a CHL.
Question: If I want to prohibit both concealed carry and open carry in my private business what signs do I need to have displayed?
Answer: You must have the 30.06 (concealed carry) and the 30.07 (open carry) signs posted in the front windows of your business.
Question: If I am a private business owner and I do not have the proper 30.06 and 30.07 signs posted and I ask someone to leave my store who is carrying a weapon, are they still legally required to leave even though I don’t have the proper signs?
Answer: Yes. As a private business owner you can tell someone to leave if they are carrying a weapon whether you have or don’t have the proper signs posted.
Question: Since the zoo is often frequented by school field trips, are the zoo and other similar places trying to establish themselves as educational facilities or at least be considered that when there is a school field trip present?
Answer: It will be a case by case basis. If it is a city owned business, there should be something in the future that when a school field trip is present, you will not be able to carry a weapon. Again, it is up to private business to designate if they allow weapons or not.
Question: If I use a “drop leg” holster that holds my gun around the middle of my thigh, will I get arrested for having an improper holster?
Answer: No you will not be arrested for that type of holster. It is still mounted to your belt which is the requirement in the law.
Question: If my private business has multiple entrances, can I post the 30.06 and 30.07 signs at the main entrance, or do I need to post them at every entrance?
Answer: You must have them posted at all entrances.
Question: Does a citizen have the right to ask a CHL carrier for proof of licensing?
Answer: No. A citizen does not have the right to ask a CHL carrier for proof that he or she is legally carrying a weapon.
Question: Since open carry is now legal, does that mean that I am no longer able to conceal my handgun?
Answer: The open carry law gives you the option to conceal your handgun or carry it out in the open.
Question: How will deaf people be kept safe when they are approached by a police officer and there is difficulty telling the officer that they are reaching for their CHL license rather than their gun?
Answer: Police cadets are currently being trained in proper ways to interact with deaf people during a traffic stop or an occurrence where they are being asked to provide identification for a CHL.
Question: What advice would you give to someone who is feeling anxious or intimidated in an open carry environment?
Answer: Open carry is going to be something that everyone will have to get used to. Initially it will be weird to see someone carrying a handgun in the grocery store, but it is important to know that the people who are open carrying a gun are law abiding citizens and are not there to intimidate or hurt you.
Question: Since the public is not allowed to open carry a weapon, will you allow off duty police officers to be able to open carry their handgun?
Answer: No. Off duty police officers will still be required to conceal their handgun. However, if an officer wants to go and get their CHL, they will be allowed to carry a handgun out in the open as long as they are not carrying it under the authority or general orders of the Houston Police Department.
Question: Some organizations that are in opposition to open carry, have said that if they see someone openly carrying a handgun, they will call 911 and say that person is being aggressive and threatening people with the weapon. How will the police handle situations like this.
Answer: The police will act with caution when approaching the person, they will collect the facts, and when it is found that this person was doing nothing wrong, the investigation will be turned towards the person who made the false 911 call.
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.