Texas Open Carry Update 2016
For the last 20 years, since the adoption of the Texas Concealed Handgun Program in 1995, trained, law-abiding Texans have been able to carry a concealed handgun for self defense. Beginning January 1, 2016, Texas's Concealed Handgun License will become a "License to Carry a Handgun" (LCH) and Texans with a license will be able to carry a handgun either openly or concealed. But there are some important parts of this new law that you should be aware of before you carry a handgun openly or encounter a citizen carrying.
1. Who is eligible to carry?
Carrying openly or concealed is permitted for those who have no felony convictions, no recent misdemeanor convictions (in the last 5 years) and who have passed a class with a Texas DPS certified CHL Instructor. If you have a CHL, as of January 1, 2016, it will become an LCH automatically. No additional permit (apart from your CHL/LCH) is required to carry openly.
2. What are the requirements to carry openly?
When you are openly carrying a handgun, of course, you must have your LCH on your person, together with your driver's license. With an LCH, you can carry openly carry a handgun, as long as it is carried in a belt or shoulder holster.
3. If you are openly carrying, can you be stopped by the police?
Yes! The bill as passed by the Texas Legislature does not restrict police from stopping individuals who are openly carrying, to verify that they are properly licensed. Remember, carrying a handgun is still presumed to be illegal in Texas, but possession of a LCH is an exception to the law. That means that you have the obligation to cooperate with police and establish your entitlement to the exception whenever it becomes necessary. Cooperation is the key. If you are carrying, be prepared to show your LCH, just as you must be prepared to show your drivers license on request if you are driving.
4. Are there any restrictions on where you can carry openly?
Yes. The same places which have always been off-limits for CHL are also off limits for open carry. Among these are schools, bars, prisons, polling places on election day (or while early voting is taking place), and others listed in Texas Penal Code 46.03 and 46.035. If you are open carrying, you must be extra-careful not to go into these places, as there will be no doubt to anyone that you are carrying and breaking the law, and will likely be arrested and lose your LCH. In addition you may carry concealed, but not openly on the premises of an institution of higher education (a college or university), and only after August 1, 2016. It is also important to note that, for campus carry, "premises" includes driveways, parking lots, physical grounds, etc.
5. Can business owners prohibit carry on their property?
Yes. Every business owner in Texas is allowed to post a specific sign containing the notice set out in Texas Penal Code 30.06 (prohibiting concealed carry) or 30.07 (prohibiting open carry) or both. Business owners may also ask anyone on their property to leave for any reason (including that they are carrying a handgun). If you are asked to leave, please do! Respect the rules of the business. If you don't, that is criminal trespass!
6. If you encounter someone carrying a handgun, what should you do?
If you see someone openly carrying a handgun after January 1, you should treat them with the same courtesy you would treat anyone else. Waive. Smile. Say "Hello!" Do not be alarmed unless you have some reason to be alarmed. If you see anyone (carrying or not) that is acting erratically, appears to be intoxicated and potentially dangerous, or is acting suspiciously, avoid the situation and contact local law enforcement. But do not be afraid just because someone is carrying. A person with an LCH represents a certified, licensed, trained person with a clean record.
7. Can a private citizen ask someone carrying if they have a LCH?
Sure. Just understand that the citizen who is carrying has no legal obligation to tell you or to show you a their LCH. Many may feel comfortable talking about it, so long as you are polite in your interaction. Others may brush off the question or refuse to answer. For some people, being asked about whether you have an LCH is a sensitive question, like being asked about your religious preference. Remember this and, if you feel like you must ask, please do so kindly.
The changes in Texas Law have sparked many questions among Texas CHL/LCH holders about tactics, carry methods, and other means of carrying a handgun in the most responsible and effective manner possible. Many of those questions are simply too detailed to answer well here. As a licensed attorney and a 20 year veteran CHL instructor, I would be happy to answer any such questions, or discuss CHL further. Please feel free to post a comment or email me with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.