At the stroke of midnight on January 1, the controversial Open Carry law came into effect and Texas now allows residents that have a license to carry a gun to do so in the open if they prefer to not have it concealed. Law enforcement officers around the state has been preparing for weeks to address a flurry of 911 calls from concerned citizens who may not understand the nature of the law nor the legal rights of the armed. Several public awareness campaigns have been circulated by police departments around the state to educate the un-armed on the rights affiliated with this new law.
House Bill 910 allows individuals who have obtained a License to Carry (LTC), or who have a valid concealed handgun license (CHL), to carry their weapon in plain view as long as it is secure in a belt or shoulder holster. The City of Dallas has provided extensive training to both their 311 and 911 operators to address any concerned citizen’s questions. Additionally, the Dallas Police Department has provided training to officers for what is legal when exercising Open Carry. “They have been proactive with training us but it’s the public that will be the issue,” said a Dallas police officer that wished to remain anonymous. “There has been little done to educate the public, by the state, about the new law and in the current environment I anticipate a great deal of concern from the average citizen.”
Citizens are urged to call 911 only when encountering a person who is in clear violation of Open Carry law and violations can include:
- Removal of the gun from a secured holster.
- When a gun holder seems intoxicated.
- When the gun holder is obviously committing a crime or acting in a reckless or suspicious manner.
“Something that I think needs to have the utmost priority, is equipping our officers with body cams,” said Ian Saint who hosts a popular podcast addressing topical and timely issues. “If we allow citizens to openly carry – where a confronting officer doesn’t know if they have legitimate registration – then, surveillance that’s obvious to the confronted person can be a big deterrent from them harming our officers.”
LTC holders are prohibited from carrying weapons in select locations such as amusement parks, worship centers, and governmental meetings that are subject to Texas Open Meetings Act. The City of Dallas will prohibit all guns during City Council or other governmental meetings including those for the City Planning Commission, Park Board, and Animal Shelter Commission. Additionally, no handguns will be allowed at any sporting events
In spite of all the attention and public awareness, some people are opting to not socialize with friends if they are carrying a weapon in the open. “I’m a big fan of humility and subtlety,” said Saint. “Concealed carriers, hopefully, have a genuine concern for protecting the community and have nothing to prove. Open carry doesn’t give the same impression. And the big key to my opinion on guns, is it’s nobody’s business whether or not I’m carrying. Likewise, your eyes won’t tell you the answer! I think the predicament of ‘does or doesn’t he’ is an effective deterrent.”
Some major retailers such as mainstream grocers H-E-B, Whole Foods, and Sprouts, have placed signage up instructing that open carry will not be tolerated in their facilities. For those that refuse to leave home without their weapon on display, Kroger will be the grocer to cater to their needs as they have stated that they will abide by “local laws” whatever they may be. Kroger CFO Michael Schlotman spoke with CNBC’s Squawk Box and believes that it is not the responsibility of the store to interpret laws as that is the discretion of law enforcement officers.
The City of Dallas’s public awareness message can be viewed at this link.