Texas Braces For New Gun Carry Laws, Businesses Face Tough Choices

Texas is preparing to implement its new open gun carry laws, leaving many people frustrated, confused, or pleased.

The law will come into effect New Year’s Day. According to CNN Money, it allows anyone over the age of 21 who completes a criminal record check and four-hour training course to pay $140 and receive a permit to openly carry a firearm in public. Open carriers can keep their weapons in either belt or shoulder holsters.

There are a few exceptions.

Texans will not be able to carry firearms in schools, courts, and jails. Likewise, hospitals and government meetings can be declared gun-free zones, and open carry is prohibited in businesses that make over 51 percent or more of their profits from alcohol sales.

There’s another caveat that is forcing many business owners to make difficult decisions. They can prohibit gun open carry (as well as concealed carry) on their premises by either giving verbal warning or posting a sign. According to the Dallas Morning News, the signs have to be large because of text and wording requirements — measures critics say are designed to discourage use.

That means that they’ll take up some valuable advertising space, but for businesses in Texas that fear the sight of a gun will drive away customers, it’s a necessary step.

Paula Lambert, owner of the Mozzarella Co. in Deep Ellum, explained to the Morning News, “I just hate it.”

“I always think it’s off-putting when I see those signs. … But I guess we’ll put them up.”

Wholefoods, Nasher Sculpture Center, Half-Priced Books, AMC Theaters, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas are among the businesses and public locations that will not allow open carry and already bar concealed gun carry.

Kroger, Home Depot, Bass Pro Shops, and the First Baptist Church of Arlington near Dallas will allow both. Senior Pastor Dennis Wiles explained the First Baptist Church’s decision.

“We decided it was best to allow responsible people to do this if they choose. We will probably assess the situation in a couple of months to see how it goes. When it comes to a church, I don’t think we’re going to see that much difference.”

Other businesses have more complicated policies. Whataburger and H-E-B, for example, will allow concealed carry, but not open carry. Others are still working out their policies.

Gun activists in Austin, Texas, stage a "mock mass shooting" to protest gun-free zones, but were later overwhelmed by counter-protesters. [Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images]
So how much will the new laws really affect gun-carrying behavior?

Not much according to the law’s backers. People in Texas have long been able to openly carry long-guns, such as shotguns and rifles. Considering the amount of public places that will not allow open carrying, gun owners may still feel it is too much hassle anyways.

Democrats in the state called the measure “dangerous, pointless and little more than pandering.”

Still, the Wall Street Journal reports that there were 922,197 active licenses to carry concealed weapons in October. Those gun owners will be able to open carry without additional paperwork.

Some gun owners in Texas hope the law will patch up some legal insecurities in their current permits. Although the law is already supposed to accommodate this scenario, some people worry that their concealed gun will show and cause problems.

Texas gun-rights group Open Carry president C.J. Grisham explained that the law will help owners of large-caliber handguns who may have difficulties concealing their weapons.

“We shouldn’t have to dress around our ability to carry. Frankly, people should be more afraid of who they don’t know is carrying than who they know is carrying.”

Another group, Texas Police Chiefs Association, say the inconvenience is worth the gains in safety. The association says that 75 percent of police chiefs oppose the new open carry laws.

A.44 Colt revolver used by law enforcement in Americas Wild West era, which is still commonly associated with Texas. (Photo by Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images)
Charles McClelland, Houston’s police chief, told the Wall Street Journal, “When my officers are responding to situations or disturbances where a gun is involved, how are they supposed to know who the good guy or the bad guy is with the gun?”

In Colorado, which already allows people to openly carry a gun, a 9-11 operator received a call in October from a woman who saw a man armed with a rifle. The operator said the state permitted open carry and told the woman it was not an emergency.

The man went on to shoot three people before dying in a shootout with police. Some law enforcement might worry the same confusion will come to Texas thanks to the new gun carry laws.

[Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images]