Open-Carry Passes and Quickly Becomes a Non-Issue
Whether you own a gun or not, if you live in Texas you are keenly aware that people who have a Texas License to Carry a Handgun (LTC) (formerly Texas Concealed Handgun License (CHL)) can carry their handguns openly, subject to a few exceptions.
These licensees, or LTCs as they are called, have undergone a comprehensive background check, attended a special class that covers Texas gun laws and laws dealing with the use of force and deadly force and other matters of importance to people who choose to carry a self-defense handgun. In spite of all of the dire predictions of blood in the streets by anti-gun groups, and predictions by radical open-carry groups of mass police harassment of people carrying handgun openly, open-carry has been a non-issue. Both the NRA and TSRA knew that would be the case when their HB910 was introduced and passed in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session.
Anti-Second Amendment groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, both funded by rabid control freak and anti-gun former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, proclaimed that people were going be dying in big bleeding batches and that people who chose not to carry a handgun would be terrified at the sight of a handgun. Small but vocal in-your-face open-carry groups predicted that thousands of law-abiding LTCs were going to be harassed and even arrested by heavy-handed peace officers, simply because they were carrying a handgun openly. All such claims were long on emotion, but devoid of factual support. They were promulgated solely to support a particular political agenda.
Since the January 1, 2016 effective date of the HB910, none of the “parade of horribles” predicted by both groups have come to pass. No licensee has had their handgun “snatched” and used in a crime. No handgun has fallen from a holster and discharged killing someone. No licensees have been harassed by peace officers and/or arrested. In short, the law is working every bit as smoothly as the NRA and TSRA knew it would when they threw their considerable political weight behind HB910.
The unfounded fear tactics were destined to fail for the simple reason that twenty years of experience by the Texas concealed handgun license program proved that licensees and the general public had nothing to fear. Since 1995 when the Texas Concealed Handgun License law passed (SB60), licensees (then referred to as CHLs) have proven themselves to be the most law-abiding segment of Texans. They have consistently been seventeen times less likely to commit a crime than is the general public in Texas. This record is even better than Texas law enforcement that also has an enviable record.
On January 20, 2013, this writer wrote Straight Talk About Open-Carry. The closing paragraph focused on two facts. First, there was nothing to fear about open-carry, based upon what was then an eighteen year history with concealed-carry. Secondly, licensees were reminded of their duty to be consummate statesmen on behalf of all licensees. The closing paragraph is as follows:
I have no idea if open-carry will pass during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session, but it is highly likely that it will pass at some point in the future. Texans should feel secure in the knowledge that the people they will see openly carrying handguns are members of the most law-abiding and trustworthy segment of society. This is not conjecture or hyperbole, it is a fact based upon an astounding sixteen year track record earned by CHL’s.
If open-carry does pass, it is incumbent upon those Texans exercising this option to be extraordinarily polite and courteous so as to allay the fears of those who, for the first time in their lives, will see people openly carrying handguns. For sixteen years, our fellow Texans have been walking with, sitting next to, and eating among, hundreds of thousands of armed, law-abiding CHL’s. Those choosing to openly carry a handgun should view themselves as ambassadors for those Texans who chose to continue to conceal their self-defense handguns.
[For more information on the efforts to pass open-carry in Texas, see The History of Open-Carry Efforts in Texas.]
Just as the public had nothing to fear from LTCs carrying handguns openly, licensees had nothing to fear from Texas peace officers. The support for this statement also comes from the twenty year track record of Texas licensees. While some considered concealed-carry to be a radical concept in 1995, it quickly became a non-issue. Subject to very few exceptions, most Texas peace officers strongly support the concealed-carry program and they consider the LTC a “good guy card.” In the twenty years since concealed-carry was passed, licensees and peace officers have enjoyed an excellent and mutually supportive relationship with one another. There was no honest and unbiased support for the unfounded predictions of widespread harassment of licensees.
One of the more radical open-carry groups fought hard to gut Tex. Penal Code Section 30.06, but they failed. In truth, they did not have the political clout to impact any legislation and that is a very good thing for Texas gun owners. The critical importance of Tex. Penal Code §30.06 is set out in the following paragraphs.
Even before SB60 passed in 1995, the anti-gun media and Sarah Brady’s Brady Campaign to [Ban all Guns] engaged in a campaign of fear-mongering. They preached unfounded claims about death on a Biblical scale, whether from domestic violence, accidental shootings by kids, and/or violent criminal attacks. Unfortunately, a lot of small businesses fell victim to this lie and they posted small “no guns” signs or decals on their shops and stores.
This fear-based backlash reached epidemic proportions with small businesses, but not large office buildings and shopping malls. The number of these small “no guns” signs and decals had the very real potential to destroy the then-new concealed handgun program because many people would not bother to get a license when so many places would ban handguns.
Another very real possibility was that a licensee could inadvertently enter a store that posted an easy-to-miss small “no guns” sign or decal and be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty would have been up to one year in jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine and loss of their license for five years. Something had to be done.
During the 1997 Texas Legislative Session, an NRA/TSRA bill, HB2909, passed creating Tex. Penal Code §30.06. (HB2909 made other improvements to the concealed handgun license program as well.) This new Penal Code section established specific requirements for property owners wanting to prohibit licensees from entering their property with a concealed handgun. Section 30.06 allows for property owners to give oral notice or to post a sign. If a sign is chosen, it must include the specific statutorily-required language and it must meet minimum size requirements.
The language requirement is to ensure that licensees know the sign applies to them as opposed to unlicensed persons. The size requirement is to help ensure that a licensee will not inadvertently enter posted property because they missed a small sign or decal. Another goal is to make sure a §30.06 sign is large enough to be seen by a licensee driving in front of the business. This is to avoid a situation where a licensee walks up to a door only to find a small sign prohibiting their entry with a self-defense handgun. Doing so would require the licensee to return to their car, remove and store their handgun, then return to the store. It would be obvious to any potential car burglar watching that a firearm was in the vehicle making it a prime target for theft.
Since the earliest discussions about open-carry, the NRA/TSRA has made it abundantly clear that any open-carry bill must preserve Tex. Penal Code Section 30.06 intact and that it must not be amended to apply to both open and concealed carry. Based upon the initial backlash against concealed-carry in 1995 caused by anti-gun lies, there was every reason to believe that some percentage of businesses would post signs prohibiting open-carry. (This has proven to be true.) The NRA/TSRA wanted to provide flexibility to businesses to prohibit open-carry while allowing concealed-carry as they have for twenty years. This way a licensee carrying their handgun openly would be able to simply conceal their handgun and lawfully enter a business that prohibited only open-carry.
NRA/TSRA’s HB910 that passed during the 2015 Texas Legislative Session preserves this very critical protection for law-abiding licensees. It also created Penal Code Section 30.07 that applies only to a licensee carrying a handgun openly. The rationale behind the creation of Section 30.06 applies equally to a licensees carrying their self-defense handguns openly, so Section 30.07 also specifies specific language and sign size in order to be enforceable.
If Open Carry Texas had had its way, there would be only one sign available to property owners and it would have prohibited both open and concealed carry. So a business that wanted to allow concealed-carry but prohibit open-carry would have been forced to prohibit both. What on earth were they thinking!? Why would OCT work against the interest of almost one million Texas licensees?
OCT proudly claimed that Sen. Huffines was “our” sponsor for SB342 an unlicensed open-carry bill. (See .) (SB342 is called “unlicensed open-carry” because it would remove the requirement to obtain a License to Carry a Handgun in order to carry a handgun openly or concealed.) SB342 would have amended Tex. Penal Code §30.06 such that it would apply to carrying of any handgun, whether it was carried openly or concealed. In light of the number of §30.07 signs currently being posted, it would have worked to the extreme detriment of almost one million Texas licensees! Every location with a §30.07 sign would have been posted with a SB342-amended §30.06 sign and would be off-limits not only to open-carry, but to concealed-carry. OCT would have stripped private property owners from the flexibility to allow concealed-carry while prohibiting open-carry.
There is no rational explanation for trying to destroy the protections of Tex. Penal Code §30.06 that have been enjoyed by licensees and private property owners for eighteen years. It has proven to be an excellent system that has worked to the benefit of everyone involved. It truly has been a win win situation.
It was not necessary to amend §30.06 to enact unlicensed open-carry, so why OCT would take such a drastic and anti-gun step boggles the mind. Why did OCT’s SB342 not create a Section 30.07 as did the NRA/TSRA HB910 to not only preserve Section 30.06 protection, but extend them to people carrying openly as well? Could it be that the OCT leadership was so myopic that it wanted a situation were “if I can’t go in, you can’t go in?” How childish? How disrespectful to licensees and property owners?
OCT leadership likely knew that its SB342 and HB195, its other unlicensed open-carry bill, would not pass. Indeed, they did not even get a committee hearing on either bill. This apparently prompted its founder to support F-Rated, anti-gun Democrat Poncho Nevarez’s HB2405 that would have gutted Tex. Penal Code §30.06 and brought back the pre-1997 days when a small, easy-to-miss sign would have been enforceable against Texas LTC’s. Although there is no evidence that OCT worked with any anti-gun groups, other than Rep. Nevarez himself, it is interesting that the Bloomberg-funded anti-gun groups Moms Demand Action and Texas Gun Sense were big supporters of Rep. Pancho Nevarez’s HB2405.
After the close of the 2015 Texas Legislative Session, Andrea Brauer who heads Texas Gun Sense managed to get an anti-gun Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives to host a sham meeting regarding open-carry. During the meeting, Ms. Brauer pledged to bring another bill like HB2405 to the 2017 Legislative Session. She also pledged to get the Texas Association of Business (TAB) to support the bill. The groups supporting Rep. Nevarez’s failed attempt to pass HB2405 certainly do make strange bedfellows.
Some reading this article may wonder if it is just a “hit piece” against OCT and/or C.J. Grisham and the answer is a unequivocal NO! Most Texas gun owners, many of whom are honest, rank and file members of OCT, are fully aware of the damage done to the open-carry issue by the counterproductive in-your-face tactics employed by OCT leadership in their failed attempt to pass unlicensed open-carry. However, far too few Texas gun owners are aware of the actions taken by OCT leadership outside the public eye that are against their interest in terms of Second Amendment rights. The purpose of this article is to shine some light on what OCT has been doing in the shadows.
Licensees, indeed all Texas gun owners, need to keep a close watch on any bills that are supported by OCT during the 2017 Texas Legislative Session. Do not assume that their leadership’s claim to be pro-gun finds its way into bills they support. An old saying comes to mind. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”