HB195: Unlicensed carrying of a handgun

Several open-carry bills were pre-filed for the 2015 Texas Legislative Session and it is likely at least one or two more will be filed after the session begins.  One of the pre-filed bills is HB195 by Rep. Stickland.  It is the only open-carry bill that would allow all Texans to carry a handgun without requiring a Texas Concealed Handgun License (CHL).

Actually, HB195 is not limited to carrying a handgun openly.  If it were to pass in its as-filed form, Texans could carry a handgun openly or concealed without a CHL.  Obviously, this Bill has become the darling of some of the open-carry supporters, but the majority have or will have strong reservations when they realize the Bill would apply Tex. Penal Code §30.06 to both open and concealed carry, rather than only concealed-carry as is currently the case.

Open Carry Texas (OCT) claims that HB195 was actually written by OCT and Dudley Brown's National Association of Gun Rights and after analyzing it, that is quite likely true.  The Bill has a number of problems, not the least of which is that it would make Tex. Penal Code §30.06 apply to both open-carry and concealed-carry at all locations that are statutorily off-limits when a §30.06 sign is posted.  At least, that is what intellectually dishonest prosecutors will claim.  The result will be that any store that wants to allow concealed-carry but prohibit open-carry will not be able to do so.  It will be forced to either allow both types of carrying of handguns, or to prohibit both methods of carrying.

Most readers are not interested in a lawyer giving a very detailed dissertation on how and why HB195 is a major problem for Texas gun owners and private property owners, so here is a general description of the problem.  Section 3 of the Bill amends Tex. Penal Code §46.035 that currently applies only to CHLs.  The words "license holder" are stricken from subsection (a) and replaced with the ill-advised phrase "person in possession of a handgun."  (This phrase is problematic, but is not covered in this article.)  This means that the offenses set out in §46.035 apply to both open-carry and concealed-carry.  Due to these amendments, the remaining code provision will have the effect of making a Tex. Penal Code §30.06 sign prevent not only concealed-carry, but open-carry as well.  As previously noted, this means a property owner would not be able to allow one form of carrying a handgun while prohibiting another method.

There are other problems as well.  The way the Bill amends Tex. Penal Code §46.02, it creates a trap for Texas gun owners such that even a Class C Misdemeanor could subject them to arrest and conviction of unlawfully carrying a handgun.  There is absolutely no reason to amend §46.02 as was done in OCT/NARG's HB195. 

The Texas Firearms Coalition 2015 Bill Status Report noted these problems as the reason TFC is neutral on HB195.  The Report goes on to note that if these problems are corrected in committee, then TFC will support HB195, otherwise it will oppose it.