New Issues Regarding the Open Carry Law
As many of you know, the Texas legislature has recently passed H.B. 910, a bill that would allow gun owners to carry handguns openly in belt or shoulder holsters. Legislation like this is known as an “open carry law” because it permits gun owners to carry weapons in plain view. Under current Texas law, citizens who want to possess a handgun in a public place must have a concealed handgun license (CHL) and must keep the weapon hidden, or concealed, at all times. Texas law already allows citizens to openly carry rifles and shotguns in public.
This distinction between handguns and assault weapons has seemed arbitrary and ridiculous to some citizens, prompting Texas legislators to reconsider the law on handguns. On Friday, June 5, 2015, H.B. 910 passed the House and Senate. The bill must be signed by Governor Greg Abbott to become law. In February 2015, Governor Abbott promised to sign any bill that “expands Second Amendment rights in Texas,” and he is expected to sign one.
What will happen when the bill becomes law? Texans will be permitted to exercise their constitutional right to be arms, but what else? How will this affect law enforcement, for example, or private businesses such as restaurants?
Law enforcement officers will be allowed to ask anyone who is openly carrying a handgun to show proof of a gun license. The officer doesn’t need to have “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause” to believe that the gun owner has committed or is committing a crime; the fact that the citizen is carrying a handgun in plain view allows the officer to ask for proof of a license. Law enforcement groups lobbied hard for this provision, claiming that officers needed to be able to find out quickly who was carrying a gun legally and who was not.
Restaurants and other private businesses will be able to enforce policies prohibiting their customers from openly carrying guns. If businesses do have such a policy, they must notify their customers and potential customers – usually through a posted sign. Some businesses “request” that their customers leave weapons at home or in a vehicle, but they have not banned them altogether. There are several different websites that rate the “gun-friendliness” of businesses.
It is important to remember that constitutional rights are only protected from government infringement. This is why businesses are allowed to prohibit guns on their properties, but the government is not allowed to pass a law that prohibits gun possession in all restaurants. Constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms, should always be exercised with knowledge and responsibility. Please contact Chad West, PLLC if you have any questions about CHLs, open carry laws, or the Second Amendment.