Front side of Alamo in downtown San Antonio TexasThe Dallas Texas city skyline at night

Texas Considers Finally Allowing Open Carry of Handguns

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By Angela Mason, Contributor

Despite the fact that everything you know about Texas would likely lead you to believe otherwise, the Lone Star State is one of the very few states left in American which still bans the open carry of handguns. It is a fact that makes many question all they’ve heard about Texas and the Wild, Wild West…and it is a fact which may soon be remedied, according to Governor-elect Greg Abbot.  The big thing you need to find out is when you can and cannot carry a gun with, or without, a concealed handgun license (CHL.)

Just What ARE the Rules on Carrying Handguns in Texas?

For those who grew up watching Western movies or reading books about the Lone Star State, the fact that Texas is not a traditional open carry state can come as quite a surprise. This knowledge leaves many wondering just exactly what the rules are when it comes to carrying a gun in Texas. Here are a few questions and answers, courtesy of Texas Gun Laws:

Q: Can I Open Carry in Texas (in Public)?
A: You can openly carry rifles and shotguns, but not handguns. A CHL is not needed to do this. However, you must do so in a manner not “calculated” to cause alarm; meaning you are carrying the rifle to purposely intimidate or scare people.

Q: Why Can’t I Open Carry my Handgun in Texas (in Public)?
A: Texas has long had a prohibition on the open display of handguns. This dates back to the days of Cowboys in the “Wild West” era of the 1800s; contrary to public opinion.

Q: Can I Open Carry on my own Property?
A: Yes, you may carry openly on property that you own or that is directly under your control.

Q: Can I Open Carry on Private Land?
A: Yes and No. You can carry openly if you are in the act of hunting or directly en route to your residence which can include a motor vehicle. You cannot openly carry on property that is not yours, even if the owner gives you permission to do so.

Q: I have a CHL, can I Carry Openly?
A: At this time the CHL only enables you to carry concealed, but there is a bill in the legislature that would allow CHL holders the right to choose to carry openly.

Q: Can I Open Carry in my Car?
A: No, the Motorist Protection Act does allow you to keep a concealed handgun in your motor vehicle without a CHL, but does carry the provision that the handgun must not be in plain sight.

Q: Other States allow Open Carry, Why Doesn’t Texas?
A: It’s a long story, but the public has only recently been able to carry handguns thanks to the passage of CHL laws in the 1990s, but there has been a large effort to get open carry passed. A bill was drafted two sessions ago that would allow CHL holders to carry openly. It passed committee but did not get any farther due to time. It was reintroduced this session, but has not progressed any further, yet.

Bills in support of open carry have been on the table with a great deal of support many times before, namely, in 2009, 2011, and 2013, but objections from universities and law enforcement halted those efforts.

Even Liberal States Have Open Carry Laws

In 2015, Governor-elect Greg Abbot is expected to push for more gun rights in the state of Texas. He will, of course, have the backing of the Republican-dominated legislature when he attempts to overthrow the one hundred and forty year old ban on open carry of handguns in the state. As Abbot points out, there are several Liberal states which have more lenient gun laws than those in Texas. As a matter of fact, the day after he as elected last month, Abbot stated, “If open carry is good enough for Massachusetts, it’s good enough for the state of Texas.”
In the 2014 statewide election, open carry pulled a great deal of support. There have already been at least six bills on the subject which have been filed for January’s upcoming session. If any of those bills make it to Abbot’s desk, he has already pledged to sign one into law. If that happens, then Texas, by removing the one hundred and forty year old ban, will become the largest state to ever do so.

As pointed out by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, most of the United States already has some law allowing the open carry of handguns. That number does not include Texas, California, Florida, New York, Illinois, or South Carolina. In all of these states, open carry is still illegal. These stats make up over one-third of the population of the United States, and six of the US’s seven largest centers of population are located within these states.

Why Such Strict Gun Laws?

According to UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, the strictest gun control laws exist in large urban areas because of the concerns over incidents where guns would be carried into large crowds..or in crime control situations. The author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” feels that it is pretty surprising that there is still an open carry ban in Texas which dates back to the 1870s.

“We’ve been regulating guns in the interest of public safety, even in places like Texas, since the founding,” Winkler said. “The battle over open carry of guns in public remains one of the most heated in the gun debate today.”

It is ironic that Texas has the most “gun-friendly” reputation of all of the states, and yet still bans open carry. Texas first banned carrying handguns in the state “when the carpet-bagger government was very anxious about former Confederates and recently freed slaves carrying firearms,” according to state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Long Guns Etc, Still Allowed

Although there is still a ban on the open carry of handguns, Texas allows its citizens to publicly display their long guns, such as shot guns and rifles. Concealed handguns are even allowed inside the Capitol, and those who have licenses are allowed to bypass the metal detectors there. There are currently 811,000 concealed handgun license holders in the state of Texas…almost the same number as the entire population of San Francisco. Texas has more federal firearms license holders than anywhere else in the United States. Its laws on gun ownership are lenient compared to most, yet the state still insists that guns are kept hidden, even by those with licenses.

Perhaps it is Time for a Change

Governor-elect Abbot hopes to change all that. While most of the bills that have been filed for January’s session would require a license, Rep Jonathan Strickland, R-Bedford has filed one which does not. He feels that licensing requirements should be dropped for both open carry and concealed weapons. “The idea is we’re going to return our Second Amendment rights,” Stickland said. “I can’t imagine what the citizens would do if they had to take a class or pay a fee to use their First Amendment rights.”

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