Open Carry is Much Ado About Nothing

Open Carry is Much Ado About Nothing

by Susan Neuhalfen

Governor Gregg Abbott signed House Bill 910, the Texas Open Carry Bill for concealed handgun holders, into law and it went into effect on January 1 of this year.

The new law allows Texans who currently hold a concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry their weapons in full view of the public. For those who currently hold a CHL, the only thing that happens is that the name changes from CHL to LTC or license to carry. Still, to carry a handgun, concealed or not, all Texans must complete a state approved LTC course.

To carry openly, an LTC holder must carry the weapon secured in a belt or shoulder holster and may not display the gun in a threatening or provocative manner.

According to Denton County Sheriff Will Travis, his office received many calls of concern about the law after it was passed and before it went into effect. These call mostly came from other county offices who were concerned with the disruption that an individual openly carrying a weapon might cause.

“Our biggest concern was with the segment of the general public who does not understand firearms,” said Sheriff Travis. “We held a lot of informational sessions to educate the public about what was going to happen as it relates to open carry.”

As it turns out, the hubbub surrounding the passing of the law, was much greater than the actual outcome.

Randy Plemons, the Assistant Chief of Operations for Denton County, held many of the informational sessions, which included when it’s necessary to contact the police.

“Just because you see someone openly carrying a weapon, that is not a need for concern,” said Plemons. “However, if that individual is displaying the weapon in a threatening manner, the police should be notified.”

Plemons also noticed that although law enforcement may stop any individual openly carrying a weapon to see proper LTC identification, they will not unless that individual is acting suspiciously.

How many calls have they received regarding open carry concerns so far?

“We haven’t received a single call,” confirmed Travis.

In fact, Plemons said that he has only seen one individual openly carrying since the law went into effect.

“He had a pearl handled antique and I saw him in a restaurant in Grapevine,” he said. “I think it was more for decoration than anything.”

It is important to note that just because open carry is the law, it doesn’t mean that any LTC holder is allowed to carry wherever he pleases. Businesses can preclude an individual from coming into their establishment with either a concealed or open carry handgun. There is one sign banning concealed weapons called the 30.06. The other sign (30.07) bans individuals from entering with an open carry handgun. The 3’ x 4’ signs must be posted at the entrance of the business in one inch block letters in both English and Spanish.

Some places where firearms are never allowed are educational facilities including the grounds where a school activity may be taking place (i.e. sporting event). An individual may not carry a firearm at a polling place on the day of election or during early voting. Other places that ban firearms are correctional facilities, government court offices including court proceedings, commissioners court, city council and school board meetings, racetrack, horse or dog racing facilities, and the secure area of an airport.

Any place that derives 51% or more from alcohol sales or onsite consumption also bans weapons on the premises. Hospitals, nursing homes, amusement parks, churches, synagogues and other places of worship may also ban firearms but must have the proper signage displayed to do so.

In addition, an establishment not feeling comfortable with an individual carrying a firearm on the premises, may give that person a verbal warning and, if that individual chooses not to comply, the business should call the police.

The question still remains that if it is okay to open carry, why aren’t more people taking advantage of the law?

“From a safety standpoint, why would you want to expose yourself like that?” questioned Plemons. “If an individual who comes into an establishment wanting to do harm, as an open carrier, you have labeled yourself as his first obstacle.”

Sheriff Travis agrees that common sense dictates that if you do carry a firearm it would make more sense to keep in concealed.

Whatever your choice, the Denton County Sheriff’s Department urges individuals wanting to carry a firearm to sign up for an LTC class which includes both classroom training as well as firearm training.

“The class is very important,” said Plemons. “I think students should pay very close attention to safe handing and storage of a firearm. It’s part of being a responsible gun owner.”

Individuals who carry a firearm unlawfully are subject to a fine up to $4,000 or may spend up to a year in county jail.

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