Expect to see firearms out in public come Friday, when the state’s open carry law goes into effect. From Jan. 1, those licensed may carry a holstered weapon on their belt or shoulder almost anywhere concealed guns are currently permitted, save for churches, schools and some places where alcohol is served, such as amusement parks.
“Passing licensed open carry was one of my top priorities, and I truly believe it will benefit all Texans,” said Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), who sponsored House Bill 910, said in a statement.
He called it the first major change to gun laws since Texas’ conceal to carry law passed 20 years ago. Gun owners who obtain a license to carry a handgun or possess a concealed handgun permit from the Texas Department of Public Safety may begin openly carrying their weapons as of Jan. 1. In Lake Highlands, 502 concealed handgun permits were issued in 2014 (for you data geeks out there, in that same timeframe five permit applications were denied, and eight were suspended).
To prepare for this change, Dallas Police have stepped up training, both with officers but more importantly with emergency dispatchers. Concerned that citizens may see someone openly carrying a weapon and call 911, DPD is teaching dispatchers how to educate the public, according to a website the City of Dallas posted to address the new law.
The site says one should only call 911 when they see someone openly carrying a weapon that is not properly holstered at the shoulder or belt, when the person seems intoxicated, or if the person is clearly committing a crime or otherwise acting recklessly.
Multiple calls and emails to DPD about the new law and training have not been returned, but this article will be updated if they ever get back to us.
Private businesses have the option of banning openly carried weapons. Whole Foods told CNN that it won’t allow weapons to be openly carried at any of its premises, in any state. Any neighborhood business that also plans to ban open-carry weapons can contact me for future coverage on this issue, if interested.
Texas is behind the rest of the country in its open carry laws as the 45th state to allow them. According to the National Rifle Association, only California, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, New York and Washington D.C. have bans preventing legal gun owners from openly carrying a weapon.
To obtain a firearm license in Texas, one must be 21, pay the $140 permitting fee, take a four-hour safety class and have a clean criminal record.