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Texas Open Carry Overview

After 20 years (1995-2015) the familiar Texas Concealed Handgun License (CHL) officially changes to a Texas License To Carry or LTC -- because it now protects both discreet and open carry of sidearms.

Bit by bit, the lost right to bear arms in Texas is being restored -- at least for those with government carry papers -- after decades of near-total infringement. Texas now has 826,000 license holders, a source of pride to many, but it means 97% of all Texans' rights remain infringed -- carry without papers remains banned in Texas. Still, it is a step in the right direction, for the pro-rights side (the left dislikes this liberty intensely).


As Texas joins the rest of the nation in varying degrees of freedom to bear arms in public, I advise caution while the kinks are worked out, authorities get used to the new standards and procedures, social norms develop, shop keepers acclimatize, the public gets used to the new normal of open carry, some bad apples test the limits of endurance and civility (not recommended), and a few of you become test cases to clarify the gray areas. Even here in Arizona where I am, with free (paperless) open carry legal since statehood in 1912, there's a little more to it than just putting on your boots.

Do your best to avoid being a test case. The anti-rights advocates out there and some authorities will be looking for the very worst examples to make into test cases, to hurt our rights, make gun owners look bad in public, and set precedents that limit exercise of the Second Amendment. They'll be seeking to "prove" the BITS myth -- blood in the streets -- like they tried in vain when CHL passed. Don't argue in public while armed.

Especially in the early days of open carry, watch out for each other and be on best behavior. We don't live in the same wild west any longer. Belligerence or anything less than calm civilized behavior while you're reasonably well dressed and carrying openly is an invitation for scrutiny and attention you would do best to avoid. I'm being nice about that (from a state that now enjoys full Constitutional Carry). Go slowly as you test the waters.

Open carry has advantages, especially the "inoculation effect" on the uninitiated, when they see reasonable people going about business politely armed. Because you can switch over as circumstance merits, your carry options grow. Criminals get the message, and things get better (despite lunatic ravings... in the "news" media).

But if I'm open, I am constantly on alert for a grab (exhausting), and I know I've given up tactical advantage, along with all the chilling glances open carry attracts like super-conducting magnetism. So I need a reason for it, like convenience on a range trip, or any of the many open carry banquets ("tasteful open carry appreciated"), political meetings and other events where it's the modern normal. Like...



Gunburger -- coordinated meals out, arranged periodically with like-minded people at gun-friendly restaurants work well, and the joints love the revenue from good people. "Safest room in town." Otherwise, discreet wins out usually. Why be a target, attract eyeballs and hostile gunfire.

It's a double-edged blade to be sure. Sure, while it's new and you try it out, what an experience. Some acceptance, some disapproval, some fearful departures from your sight, some high fives and thumbs up, a woman clutches her child, talk about a conversation starter. Trying to act natural around traffic cops even when you know you've done nothing wrong... amplified ten times when you're both wearing loaded guns... where do you put your hands... let's chat about it next time we're together.

P.S. Reporters will seek you out for a while, many are snakes who will act nice and bite. Read this, on how to handle hostile interviews: http://www.gunlaws.com/HostileInterviews.htm


DESCRIPTION OF ALL THE CHANGES

-- Delete the word "concealed" in 60 places in 50 Texas gun laws. The round numbers are a coincidence. This has the effect of changing "a license to carry a concealed handgun" to "a license to carry a handgun," a simple, elegant way to revamp all the laws. The list is in the statute itself:
http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/html/HB00910F.htm

-- In The Texas Gun Owner's Guide http://www.gunlaws.com/tgog.htm, change every occurrence of "CHL" to "LTC."

The actual changes, in the order they appear in the bill, HB 910:

-- Statute GC §411.188(b): The classroom portion of LTC classes, going forward, must now teach: "use of restraint holsters and methods to ensure the secure carrying of openly carried handguns." GC §411.190(b) gets a similar change. Those terms are not defined, and DPS will no doubt develop instructions about this for LTC trainers. Use of restraint holsters is not required, just teaching about them. People with current licenses, which become LTCs automatically, don't need to go back to class. New licensees and renewals will get the additional instruction, and the look of new licenses will change.

-- OC §1702.206(b): A personal protection officer who is not in a security officer uniform must carry concealed, and if in uniform must carry openly.


TRESPASS, AND KEEPING GUN

CARRIERS OUT

-- PC §30.05(f) It remains a defense to prosecution -- not an exemption from law -- to be armed, openly or discreetly even with a license, on someone's property where they ban gun possession without consent and you fail to leave (trespass). What this means is you can be charged with trespass while armed and get to defend yourself in court. You can produce a valid license, the "defense to prosecution," to get off (or suffer consequences).

When you are carrying discreetly your risk is obviously reduced. If you are carrying openly though, your exposure is evident, and you could be charged more easily, and "tell it to the judge." An officer has no duty to resolve your case for you, just to charge you. If asked to leave be smart and do it.


THE NO-GUNS SIGNS

-- PC §30.06 is amended so armed trespass with an LTC while concealed is a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum $200 fine, unless you refuse to leave when told orally, which makes it a Class A misdemeanor, up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

-- The PC §30.06 concealed-carry trespass sign is amended so the sign or card only applies to licensees carrying concealed (a new §30.07 sign covers open carry). Because statute says the sign must be precise and it is now slightly different, all existing signs are flawed (they do not give proper notice), and so will have to be replaced if they are to ban LTC entry.

-- A new section, PC §30.07, is added to introduce trespass by people carrying openly, basically similar to concealed-carry trespass. A §30.07 sign or card says:

-- "Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly"

-- Like the §30.06 sign, this must be posted in contrasting colors, in block letters at least 1-inch high, in English and Spanish, posted where it is clearly visible at each entrance. Places that want to keep guns out must now post both §30.06 and §30.07 signs.

-- The rules for guns in places that serve alcohol (the "51" signs) are not affected. If the place exceeds the 51% alcohol revenue rule, no guns, if less, it's their option.

-- If other states' experience is an example, you will see many signs spring up, including many total bans, some encouraging armed patrons and some welcoming concealed only. Similar to the change to discreet carry, trespass by a licensee while openly carrying is a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum $200 fine, unless you refuse to leave when told orally, which makes it a Class A misdemeanor.

-- It is not a defense to prosecution that you were properly carrying in a shoulder or belt holster. The ban on carrying openly does not apply to property owned or leased by a governmental entity if it is not a premises or other place on which the license holder is prohibited from carrying the handgun under §§46.03 or 46.035 (the long list of prohibited places, found on pages 31-33 in The Texas Gun Owner's Guide).

What this means is government facilities, as a general rule, are not off limits. Clarifying a confusing gray area, a state attorney general's opinion declared that, when a court proceeding is held in a government facility, only the court portion is off limits, not the rest of the facility. Do yourself a favor and get The Texas Gun Owner's Guide http://www.gunlaws.com/tgog.htm so you have all the lists and details.


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http://www.gunlaws.com/tgog.htm

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-- So now that you're carrying open:
Do you know all the threatening, brandishing, intimidation laws?

The Texas Gun Owner's Guide http://www.gunlaws.com/tgog.htm



"VEHICLE LEGAL"


-- PC §46.02(a-1) is amended, so the former offense of intentionally, knowingly or recklessly carrying a handgun in plain view in a motor vehicle or watercraft you own or have under your control, is eliminated -- if you have an LTC and you are carrying in a shoulder or belt holster. In plain English, a shoulder or belt holster makes fully or partially visible handguns "vehicle legal" for land and water vehicles.


WEARING IT

-- The statute does not use the word or require wearing the holster, and other parts of statute distinguish clearly between having a handgun on or about you, or having one holstered. For example, the law controlling guns in "bars" distinguishes between guns on you, about you, concealed, and holstered two ways (PC §46.035(b)), and the campus-carry ban also notes a difference: "regardless of whether the handgun is holstered, on or about the license holder's person" (PC §46.035(a-1).

The implication is strong: whether you wear the holster or not, the law affects it while you possess it "on or about you," but the point could be adjudicated and very well may be. The person whose name goes on that case will go through years of very expensive agony and get indelible history, win or lose.

Some commenters have assumed the holster is worn, and some officials appear to want it that way, a conclusion not supported by the current language. The extra freedom of having a holstered gun that isn't worn on your body proves valuable often, especially on a day when you switch back and forth from open to discreet to vehicle storage for entry into a place that denies your rights. That sort of blatant civil-rights discrimination (denying entry) causes massive screaming from the "news" media and outrageous protests from some segments of society, but not for this specific, enumerated, fundamental constitutional right to bear arms. Yet.

A holstered but carried (non-worn) gun is common when bringing a firearm to a friend, the range, for putting on later especially with clip-on holsters, or when transporting more than a few firearms. This last point seems overlooked in the heady buildup to Day One when people seem so eager and focused on trying out this new fangled freedom. Even seatbelts interfere with wearing holsters, as many Texans are about to find out, making clip-ons and paddle types on a passenger seat more common (note to stores -- stock up!).

-- PC 46.035 is amended, to provide an exception to the offense of (former CHL) intentionally letting a handgun show in public, if the person is an LTC and the firearm is in a shoulder or belt holster. Basically, you can carry openly where you could formerly carry discreetly (watch out for specified schools), but while you can carry discreetly in any manner (free of holsters), open carry requires the shoulder or belt holster.

NOTE: The uncomfortable wording here provides "an exception to the application" of the offense, instead of properly eliminating the offense altogether. It's a bald affront to the Second Amendment. Letting a gun show is not a true crime. Banning that is infringement, and the responsible parties earn punishment, not the public. Brandishing a gun intending to cause a negative reaction ought to be chargeable. But if letting a gun show inadvertently causes someone dread where none is actually warranted, remedial education, or counseling for that person is always an option. Bearing arms is not some right hidden in penumbras and emanations. Folks used to have such biased reactions when people of color ate at lunch counters. It's time for such prejudice to be recognized for what it is, and end.

-- (a-1) Also in this section, we have the new offense of intentionally letting a properly open carried firearm show at an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education, or on any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area of such a school.

This means these schools will be concealed-only zones, when SB11 takes effect for campus carry on Aug. 1, 2016 (for 4-year schools) and Aug. 1, 2017 (for 2-year schools) under school rules that are still being worked out. Concealed carry remains the rule on the ancillary areas around those schools, unless a school activity is taking place there, according to a recent attorney general opinion.

====

SIDEBAR 1:


So do you have to be actually wearing the shoulder or belt holster to legally have a sidearm with you? Or can you just holster it and make it openly legal? It's an obvious question for a test case. If I was the judge and I wanted a protective approach to Texans' precious right to arms, I would read the law precisely, and as long as that gun was in anything that could remotely pass for a shoulder or belt holster, even an ankle holster attached with a short belt, I would find it perfectly legal anywhere in a vehicle or possessed, stop bothering these good people officer. Next case. [I'm not a judge, this is not legal advice, we're just citizens discussing an issue of common interest under the protection of the First Amendment.]

On the other hand, if I hated guns, thought all you rabble are too dangerous to have guns, and I know better than you all, I would read the law precisely and know the legislature clearly intended belt and shoulder holsters to be worn as belts and on shoulders, so unless they were perfectly fitted through belt loops with the latest best retention models as I judge them, you would be in violation, bring in the next victim. This is called: "A nation of laws."


SIDEBAR 2:


The §46.02 Problem. Intentionally bearing a handgun in public is currently illegal under Texas statute. The statute goes on to provide a list of exceptions. An apparently direct violation of the U.S. Constitution (which brooks no infringement), it is so ingrained in Texas it is sometimes hardly noticed. Because your right to bear arms should be inviolate under the U.S. Constitution, state law ought to go no further than to outline and provide punishment for the crimes that can be committed or enhanced with firearms, not outlaw the basic right and then carve out exemptions. Too late.

This leads to the current problem with the LTC law. The license gives you an exception to the crime, but anyone seeing you openly armed can't tell by looking that you have the exception. By appearance you're in violation. Sacre bleu! Sorry, press 1 for English (I had this French girlfriend, it's a long story). Should LEOs routinely stop folks on the street, ask everyone, no one, spot check, profile the bubbas, look for probable cause, seek articulable suspicion... should you wear your license in a plastic convention badge holder? Nah. Maybe?

Police aren't sure how to handle this, and they are not unified on the point. It's complicated. Look it up on line. I'm waiting to see it how it comes out. Don't be the test case. But I repeat myself.

This update will be available as an easy-to-print insert for your copy of The Texas Gun Owner's Guide http://www.gunlaws.com/tgog.htm in a few days, after comments come flooding in. Just reply to this memo.

Look at the updates to the Texas gun laws for the last 15 years right here:
http://www.gunlaws.com/updates.htm

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About the Author

  • Freelance writer Alan Korwin is a founder and past president of the Arizona Book Publishing Association. With his wife Cheryl he operates Bloomfield Press, the largest producer and distributor of gun-law books in the country. Here writing as "The Uninvited Ombudsman," Alan covers the day's stories as they ought to read. Read more.

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