What You Can and Can’t do Under Texas’ New Open Carry Law

On June 13, 2015, the Texas legislature passed a bill that allowed concealed carry handgun owners to carry their handguns openly. The new bill took effect on January 1, 2016. Believe it or not, that made us (Texas) the 45th state to allow this.

What’s it allow you to do, and what’s it stop you from doing? You’ll want to know because you don’t want to forget or be unaware and suddenly find yourself facing stiff fines or jail time.

Check out a quick summary of what you can or can’t do:

What You Can Do

1. To legally carry a handgun you must have a concealed handgun license (CHL).  The new open carry law also now allows you to openly carry a handgun in a belt or shoulder holster only.

2. You can carry your handgun in any type of belt or shoulder holster. Regulations do not govern specifics about the belt or shoulder holster.

3. On August 1, 2016, you will be able to carry your loaded, concealed weapon on all state 4-year college and university campuses. The law extends to private 4-year colleges on August 1, 2017. Colleges will have an option to opt out.

4. Your concealed or open-carry firearm can be loaded while you carry.

What You Can’t Do

1. You can’t carry a handgun open or concealed without a CHL.

2. You cannot open carry on the premises of an institution of higher education, public or private. After August 1, 2016 when “campus carry” laws take effect you will be allowed to carry concealed only. You still may not open carry on any private driveway, street, sidewalk, walkway, parking lot, or parking garage of a public or private institution of higher education.

3. You cannot open carry when acting as a personal protection officer while not wearing a uniform.

4. You can’t open carry in areas already designated as “gun-free zones.” This currently includes secured areas of airports, schools, polling places, courtrooms, high schools, colleges, professional sporting events, and government meetings.

5. Be VERY careful while in airports. While you can carry in public areas like baggage, ticketing, parking garages, and public sidewalks, you cannot carry a loaded or unloaded handgun on your person or in your luggage past TSA security checkpoints.

6. You can’t get a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) until you’re 21 years old.

7. You can’t get a CHL if you’ve been convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor, which includes conviction of a DWI (a class B misdemeanor at least).

8. You can’t carry if you don’t have a CHL license that’s current. If you’re waiting for a renewal license or your first one, you cannot carry.

9. It would be wise to avoid causing any disturbance or engaging in any conduct that would be perceived as threatening someone while openly carrying your handgun.

10. Your gun must stay in the holster (unless you are forced to use it to defend yourself or another against someone’s use of unlawful deadly force against you).

What About Businesses and Government Buildings?

With businesses, the law remains that if they want to prevent CHL holders from carrying in their business they have to post the required section 30.06 or 30.07 signs. So, make sure to look for them as you enter. They are allowed to ban or not ban concealed or open carry as they see fit.

For example, Kroger and Home Depot support open carry but Whole Foods, Torchy’s Tacos, and Whataburger do not.

With government property, debate exists. If a building is multi-use and serves government, and other, purposes, it may or may not allow open carry, depending on the jurisdiction. If you have to be on government property and want to take your handgun, call the institution first before you go to get clarity on what you can and can’t do.

As it stands right now, those are the basics. Remember, if you’re not sure about open and concealed carry laws where you’re going, call and ask or research the internet for clarification first. Some states have laws in place that allow you to carry in that state if you are licensed in another state, others do not. There’s no sense in taking an unnecessary risk that could cause you costly fines.

And if you do find yourself in legal trouble, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney because losing the case and getting convicted can result in you losing your handgun license in addition to whatever other punishment is assessed.