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Open Carry of Handguns in Texas: Get Ready

You may assume that it’s not allowed anywhere in the United States for an ordinary citizen to carry their gun openly in public display, but you’re wrong if you do. It’s not.

In fact, it’s strange but true that until this month Texas (that’s right, Texas!) was one of only a few states (the others being California, Florida, New York, and Illinois) that had laws on the books outlawing public open carry of handguns.

Have you seen the recent viral video of the Georgia man who used his handgun to hold a man who tried to carjack his vehicle until the police arrived to arrest him? No problem for that Georgia man to have that handgun. Watch the video here:

Tradition of Texas Gun Laws

Regulation of guns here in Texas runs deep in our jurisprudence; even the state constitution addresses it. Texas Constitution Article I, Section 23 provides:

Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.

In the State of Texas it is true that there is no need to get a permit to purchase any gun here in Texas; there is no legal license required to own a firearm in Texas; and Texans do NOT have to register any firearms they own with the state government. (This isn’t true for some other states.)

That doesn’t mean that we don’t have lots of laws about guns. Consider these firearm laws that will still apply if there is Open Carry in Texas:

  • Texas Penal Code Section 46, which includes the legal definition of a firearm under Texas law (46.01); where firearms are prohibited (46.03); and weapons that are prohibited in Texas (46.05).
  • Texas Gov’t Code Section 411, which includes legal authority of a peace officer to disarm a citizen (411.207).
  • Texas Penal Code Section 9, describing the use of a firearm in self-defense (9.31); deadly force in defense of third person (9.33); in protection of life or death (9.34); in protection of your property (9.41); as deadly force to protect your property (9.42); and in protection of a third person’s property (9.43).

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Open Carry Law in Texas: 2015

What is happening right now is this: there are two sets of bills, House and Senate, that are likely to become law here. One set deals with open carry of handguns as a general rule in Texas. The other deals with open carry on college campuses.

In this 2015 legislative session, both the Texas Senate and the Texas House of Representatives have acted in support of open carry in the state as well as open carry of handguns on specifically on college campuses.

Governor Abbott has publicly voiced his approval of the idea, so passage of an open carry law at the Texas Legislature will be welcome when it hits the governor’s desk:

Greg Abbott believes the right to keep and bear arms was settled in 1791 when the 2nd Amendment was adopted to the U.S. Constitution. As attorney general, he fought against federal law that challenged the 2nd Amendment, and will sign open carry legislation into law as governor. 

Time pressure is on to get the bills turned into law before the end of this 2015 Legislative Session. And things are looking very good for open carry of handguns in Texas to be law in the Lone Star State very soon.

Last night, the Texas House squeaked past a midnight deadline to pass a number of Senate bills with approval that included Senate Bill 11 (campus carry), for instance.

This means that for you and me, soon it will be legal and acceptable to carry your pistol or handgun openly in Texas, just like they do in a majority of the states.

Here’s the legislation, which you can follow online (click the links here):

What is Open Carry?

Say “open carry” here in Dallas, and most people think about wearing a pistol in a holster on your person openly in public. However, “open carry” isn’t just for handguns.

In the State of Texas, there already exists open carry laws for weapons. Right now, it’s perfectly legal for you to walk down a Texas street or stroll along a Dallas sidewalk with a hunting rifle or a shotgun. No worries. There’s a rule, though: you cannot carry your rifle or shotgun in a way that is “calculated” to cause alarm in members of the public. You cannot carry that shotgun in a way that might scare somebody, but there’s not a law that forbids you carrying it.

What’s more, you can open carry your pistol or handgun on your own property. If you own your land or you control that property, then you can openly carry that pistol on that property here in Texas.

However, if you decide to take your pistol to the range for target practice, it’s a different story.

Pistols or handguns are treated differently than rifles and shotguns in Texas law. Long, long ago (think Lonesome Dove) it was acceptable and expected to see men wearing sidearms in public. However, that changed over time as the state got more “civilized” until Texas was uncharacteristically grouped with liberal states like California and New York in forbidding citizens the freedom of open carry.

In Texas, until the new law goes into effect, it is illegal to carry a pistol or handgun or sidearm on public property. You must have a concealed-carry permit to have a pistol or handgun in your possession on public property. It can be in your car, but under the Motorist Protection Act it has to be kept out of sight.

What About Crime and Open Carry?

Of course, there are those that argue that letting people openly carry pistols is going to help outlaws do bad things. The Texas Police Chiefs’ Association, for example, is really (REALLY) against it.

Imagine all the brouhaha down in Austin after the big Waco Biker Shootout, where all that gunplay left almost a dozen bodies lying on a restaurant parking lot not too far from the local Best Buy.

The Waco story didn’t stop this new law from moving through the Legislature. In fact, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick issued a press release two days after the Waco Shootout where he applauded the passage of the Open Carry law by the Texas Senate:

“More than two months ago, the Texas Senate approved similar legislation enhancing Second Amendment freedoms on a vote of 20-10,” said Patrick. “With time running out on this legislative session, the Senate has once again stood up for the Second Amendment to ensure law-abiding licensed Texans have the right to open carry.

“While the Senate considered attaching ‘campus carry’ to this bill, Speaker Joe Straus has assured the Texas Senate that the House will approve a ‘campus carry’ bill in time to be approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor to become law before time runs out on the 84th Legislative Session,” concluded Patrick.

So, crime and open carry — from a criminal defense lawyer’s view, the thing is that open carry of handguns does not mean a free for all. The new open carry laws will come with regulations. There will still be laws on the books regarding weapons and firearms.  People are still going to be arrested on state and federal weapons charges. 

But we’ll all be freer and that’s a good thing.

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For more information, check out our web resources page and Michael Lowe’s Case Results including those involving defense of clients facing weapons charges (like this one as an example).


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