Monday, July 20, 2015

To Carry or Not to Carry - Texas Gun Law Update (Jonathan Spigel)

By Jonathan Spigel

Last month, Governor Abbott signed House Bill 910 (“Texas Open Carry Law”), which becomes effective January 1, 2016.  The Texas Open Carry Law primarily amends Texas’s existing Concealed Carry Law (Texas Government Code, Subchapter H, Section 411.171 et seq.) by omitting references to the word “concealed” in that subchapter as well as in other Texas statutes containing references to “concealed” handguns.  The Texas Open Carry Law also creates new Penal Code language and a new Penal Code provision – Section 30.07, addressing criminal trespass by a gun license holder with an openly carried handgun.

The Texas Open Carry Law allows those who have previously obtained a concealed handgun license (CHL) and those who obtain a handgun license on or after January 1, 2016, pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 411.171, et seq., to openly carry their handguns in belt or shoulder holsters on certain premises.  Current Texas law prohibits the possession of concealed handguns at certain bars, hospitals, churches, and government offices, among other places.  Private and public employers can also limit the rights of their licensed employees to openly carry handguns; however, that right is not unlimited.  Specifically, employers cannot regulate their licensed employees’ open carry rights on public and private driveways, streets, sidewalks, walkways, parking lots, parking garages, or other parking areas.

Certain businesses possessing a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code license or permit, as well as certain hospitals and nursing homes must post signage prohibiting the carrying of a concealed handgun (and effective January 1, 2016, open carrying of a handgun by a license holder) containing specific language, in specific font size and color, on their premises.  Other businesses may post similar signage in compliance with Texas’s criminal trespass statutes – or merely provide verbal warnings – if they don’t want concealed or open carry handguns on their premises.

Even though Texas handgun licensing law provides for fairly onerous eligibility and licensing requirements – oft-cited by gun advocates to support the proposition that most criminal activity/offenses are committed by non-licensed gun possessors – Texas business owners and employers need to develop policies and procedures to address whether they will allow open carry, disallow it, or take some middle ground on their premises.  In making these decisions, Texas business employers/owners need to consider their business locale/community characteristics, their customers, and their employees, and weigh those considerations against potential liability for shootings on their premises.

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