The Basics of Texas Open Carry Laws
I realize that this should have been my first article on Texas open carry laws, and for that, I apologize. But I’m a believer of “better late than never,” so here is my explanation of the basics of the new Texas open carry laws.
Until January 1, 2016, Subchapter H, Chapter 411 of the Texas Government Code governed the licensing of persons to carry a concealed handgun. Although Subchapter H is still titled “License to Carry a Concealed Handgun,” it now governs the licensing of persons to carry a handgun, both openly and concealed.
Also, the Concealed Handgun License issued under this chapter is now called a License to Carry (LTC), which permits both the concealed and open carrying of a handgun. Despite the name change, an old Concealed Handgun License will permit a license holder to openly carry; re-qualifying for a License to Carry is not required. Once a license holder’s Concealed Handgun License expires, he will receive a License to Carry upon renewal.
Pursuant to § 46.035 of the Texas Penal Code (Unlawful Carrying of Handgun by License Holder), a license holder is permitted to carry a handgun on or about his person in any manner so long as it is concealed (not in plain view of another person in a public place). If a license holder wishes to openly carry a handgun (partially or wholly visible), it must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster.
Notwithstanding the permissions granted to license holders to carry a handgun, property owners can prohibit the concealed and/or open carrying of a handgun on their premises by providing proper notice to license holders. License holders are deemed to have received proper notice that the concealed and/or open carrying of handguns is prohibited if a property owner posts signs compliant with Texas Penal Code § 30.06 and 30.07, respectively. Additionally, a property owner may provide proper notice that carrying handguns, openly and/or concealed, is prohibited by verbally asking a license holder to either vacate or remove the gun from the premises.
(For a full explanation of §§ 30.06 and 30.07 and the changes to accommodate open carry, see my article on Understanding Texas Penal Code § 30.06 and § 30.07)
While any property owner may post signs pursuant to §§ 30.06 and/or 30.07, any establishment licensed to sell alcohol for off-premises consumption or licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption that derives 50% or less of its total gross profits from alcohol sales must post a sign stating that the unlicensed carrying of a handgun is prohibited. This sign simply restates the applicable law, and does not prohibit a license holder from carrying a handgun on the premises.
On the other hand, regardless of whether a person is licensed or not, carrying a handgun at an establishment licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption that derives more than 50% of its total gross receipts from the sale of alcohol is prohibited and punishable as a third degree felony. Any such establishment must post a “51%” sign providing notice that any carrying of a handgun on the premises, whether licensed or unlicensed, is prohibited.
(For a full explanation of the different signs relating to Texas handgun laws, including those related to Texas Open Carry, please see our article on Understanding Texas Handgun Signs)
In addition to establishments licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption that derive more than 50% of their total gross receipts from sales of alcohol, Texas Penal Code § 46.03 also prohibits the carrying of a handgun in various other places, regardless of whether a person is licensed or not. Such places where the carrying of a handgun is strictly prohibited are:
- a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress
- on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written court authorization
- on the premises of a racetrack
- in or into a secured area of an airport
- within 1000 feet of a premises designated as a place of legal execution on a day that a sentence of death is to be imposed
Currently, the carrying of handguns (whether licensed or not) is also strictly prohibited on the physical premises of a school or educational institution (whether public or private), any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution. The only exception to this prohibition is written regulations or written authorization of the institution providing otherwise.
However, effective August 1, 2016, a license holder will be permitted to carry a concealed handgun on the premises of an institution of higher learning (both public and private/independent 4-year college campuses), on any grounds or building on which any activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or in a passenger transportation vehicle of the institution, subject to regulations and prohibitions set forth by that institution. Additionally, 2-year (junior/community colleges) will have similar legislation go into effect on August 1, 2017.