The dos and don'ts of open carry

On New Year's Day Texas joins 45 other states allowing for the open carry of handguns Like many other states, Texas does have some ground rules.

First, you have to be licensed to openly carry a handgun. If you already have a concealed handgun license then you're covered. If you don't, then you'll have to get a "License To Carry" from the state. In fact, the Department of Public Safety is now only going to issue one handgun, which will cover both open and concealed carry of handguns.

Second, the law requires guns be kept in belt or shoulder holsters. The law also gives police officers the right to stop a gun owner and ask to see their handgun license.

You can openly carry in most city and county owned buildings and other facilities, like parks or.libraries. However, you can only carry a weapon in areas open to the general public, restricted areas are still off limits.

Robert Soard with the Harris County Attorney's Office said meetings subject to the state's Open Meetings Act, like Commissioners Court, can prohibit guns.

You still cannot openly carry a gun into courtrooms, or offices necessary to the function of a court, on federal property, inside schools, sporting events, prisons, polling places, on university and college campuses or in secured areas of airports.

Private businesses also have the right to ban guns, either by posting 30.06 or 30.07 signs or asking patrons to take their guns outside.

Houston's police chief said officers have been given extra training on the new law.

"We're going to actually drill down and explain to them the small nuances," said Chief Charles McClelland.

McClelland said officers are also prepared to handle an uptick in calls to 911 from those unaccustomed to seeing guns in public places. However, McClelland and Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson allayed some gun owners fears they would be subject to harassment from people falsely reporting reckless actions.

Anderson said if a person dials 911 and intentionally lies about a gun owner acting dangerously or in a threatening manner, then that person could potentially face charges of making a false report.

"I hope people will use common sense," said Anderson.

Officials with the city of Houston said it will not allow civilian employees to carry a weapon while on the job. McLelland said off-duty officers will also not be allowed to openly carry a weapon unless they obtain a state license.

County officials said the decision of whether to allow civilian employees to carry weapons while at work will be made by individual department heads and elected officials. State offices are also given the same discretion.

For more information and frequently asked questions about open carry changes head to DPS's summary of new law or HPD's Q&A on Open carry

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”