Texas has itself in a bit of a pickle. Here we are with a reputation as a “free state” where everything’s bigger, the cattle graze on endless plains, and the jobs are plentiful. I still remember telling Farago about the process I went through to acquire my CHL and him replying, “I thought you lived in Texas.” Ya see pardner, it’s a big open secret that our processes and procedures for legally carrying a handgun are a bit onerous. First, there’s the training and testing. Then the money. And finally . . .
the vetting and waiting. Sure, its gotten better since I first got mine, but it still disproportionately affects the hardworking poor who often cannot take time off from work and family to attend a day-long state-mandated education and testing session. And don’t even get me started on the licensing fees. Even after all that we still don’t have lawful open carry of handguns.
If you’ve been reading TTAG lately, we’ve been staying current on the goings on at the Texas legislature as our duly elected officials look to put open carry on the books with an effective date somewhere in early 2016. While I’d much rather see firearms freedom restored sooner, it does give gun owners like me a bit of time to truly consider the implications of open carry. And the time to save up for the Texas Edition SIG 1911.
Before I get into the particular issue I’m wrestling with, a little background on what it takes to become legally licensed to carry a handgun on or about your person in the Lone Star State. First, you need to eligible.
GC §411.172. ELIGIBILITY. (a) A person is eligible for a license to carry a concealed handgun if the person:
- (1) is a legal resident of this state for the six-month period preceding the date of application under this subchapter or is otherwise eligible for a license under Section 411.173(a);
- (2) is at least 21 years of age;
- (3) has not been convicted of a felony;
- (4) is not charged with the commission of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense, or of an offense under Section 42.01, Penal Code, or equivalent offense, or of a felony under an information or indictment;
- (5) is not a fugitive from justice for a felony or a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense;
- (6) is not a chemically dependent person;
- (7) is not incapable of exercising sound judgment with respect to the proper use and storage of a handgun;
- (8) has not, in the five years preceding the date of application, been convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense or of an offense under Section 42.01, Penal Code, or equivalent offense;
- (9) is fully qualified under applicable federal and state law to purchase a handgun;
- (10) has not been finally determined to be delinquent in making a child support payment administered or collected by the attorney general;
- (11) has not been finally determined to be delinquent in the payment of a tax or other money collected by the comptroller, the tax collector of a political subdivision of the state, or any agency or subdivision of the state;
- (12) is not currently restricted under a court protective order or subject to a restraining order affecting the spousal relationship, other than a restraining order solely affecting property interests;
- (13) has not, in the 10 years preceding the date of application, been adjudicated as having engaged in delinquent conduct violating a penal law of the grade of felony; and
- (14) has not made any material misrepresentation, or failed to disclose any material fact, in an application submitted pursuant to Section 411.174.
Second, you need to apply
GC §411.174. APPLICATION. (a) An applicant for a license to carry a concealed handgun must submit to the director’s designee described by Section 411.176:
- (1) a completed application on a form provided by the department that requires only the information listed in Subsection (b);
- (2) one or more photographs of the applicant that meet the requirements of the department;
- (3) a certified copy of the applicant’s birth certificate or certified proof of age;
- (4) proof of residency in this state;
- (5) two complete sets of legible and classifiable fingerprints of the applicant taken by a person appropriately trained in recording fingerprints who is employed by a law enforcement agency or by a private entity designated by a law enforcement agency as an entity qualified to take fingerprints of an applicant for a license under this subchapter;
- (6) a nonrefundable application and license fee of $140 paid to the department;
- (7) evidence of handgun proficiency, in the form and manner required by the department;
- (8) an affidavit signed by the applicant stating that the applicant:
- (A) has read and understands each provision of this subchapter that creates an offense under the laws of this state and each provision of the laws of this state related to use of deadly force; and TEXAS CONCEALED HANDGUN LAWS 8 9 TEXAS CONCEALED HANDGUN LAWS
- (B) fulfills all the eligibility requirements listed under Section 411.172; and
- (9) a form executed by the applicant that authorizes the director to make an inquiry into any noncriminal history records that are necessary to determine the applicant’s eligibility for a license under Section 411.172(a).
Once you get past those requirements, the classes, and the money required for the privilege, setting about to carry is a bit of a minefield, legally speaking. As you can imagine, there are a few places where carrying a handgun is strictly verboten.
PC §46.03. PLACES WEAPONS PROHIBITED. (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon listed in Section 46.05(a):
- (1) on the physical premises of a school or educational institution, 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, whether the school or educational institution is public or private, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution;
- (2) on the premises of a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress;
- (3) on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the court;
- (4) on the premises of a racetrack; or
- (5) in or into a secured area of an airport.
- (6) within 1,000 feet of premises the location of which is designated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a place of execution under Article 43.19, Code of Criminal Procedure, on a day that a sentence of death is set to be imposed on the designated premises and the person received notice that:
- (A) going within 1,000 feet of the premises with a weapon listed under this subsection was prohibited; or
- (B) possessing a weapon listed under this subsection within 1,000 feet of the premises was prohibited.
PC §46.035. UNLAWFUL CARRYING OF HANDGUN BY LICENSE HOLDER. (a) A license holder commits an offense if the license holder carries a handgun on or about the license holder’s person under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and intentionally displays the handgun in plain view of another person in a public place. (b) A license holder commits an offense if the license holder intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries a handgun under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, regardless of whether the handgun is concealed, on or about the license holder’s person:
- (1) on the premises of a business that has a permit or license issued under Chapter 25, 28, 32, 69, or 74, Alcoholic Beverage Code, if the business derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, as determined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission under Section 104.06, Alcoholic Beverage Code;
- (2) on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place, unless the license holder is a participant in the event and a handgun is used in the event;
- (3) on the premises of a correctional facility;
- (4) on the premises of a hospital licensed under Chapter 241, Health and Safety Code, or on the premises of a nursing home licensed under Chapter 242, Health and Safety Code, unless the license holder has written authorization of the hospital or nursing home administration, as appropriate;
- (5) in an amusement park; or
- (6) on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship
If that wall of text made your eyes bleed, a simple list of places you can’t carry looks like this:
- Polling places
- In court
- Secured areas of the airport
- Within 1000 feet of an execution
- Sporting events
- Correctional facilities
- Hospitals and nursing homes
- Amusement parks
- Churches and other established places of worship
- Any place that gets more than 51% or more of their income from the sale or service of alcohol
- Any place that puts up a 30.06 sign giving you effective notice that your gun (and you) are not wanted
An offense under the previously mentioned sections is a Class A misdemeanor in the state of Texas. And frankly, a Class A misdemeanor is nothing to trifle with.
Sec.12.21. CLASS A MISDEMEANOR. An individual adjudged guilty of a Class A misdemeanor shall be punished by:
- (1) a fine not to exceed $4,000;
- (2) confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year; or
- (3) both such fine and confinement.
Now that I’ve put the hurt on you, let’s get down to brass tacks. With the anticipated advent of open carry here, there’s going to be an endless debate about how tactically sound it is to carry a handgun openly versus concealed. We’ve rehashed a lot of that before and frankly, my opinion is, “it depends.”
This is still academic since we don’t have any legislation on the books (as of this writing) making it legal. That will hopefully change soon, and if we’re real lucky, they’ll strike the licensing requirement completely, making Texas a very large constitutional carry state, but I don’t see that happening.
One undeniable drawback to openly carrying a handgun in the state of Texas, and the thing holding me back from jumping in with both feet, it’s not hard to unintentionally violate one of the requirements listed above. Sure, a lot of those places can be easily avoided (racetracks, sporting events, correctional facilities, etc.). But the two that are the absolute worst are those with posted signs.
As some of you know, a “no guns allowed” sign does not carry the force of law in my state, a fact that I have used with great delight as I merrily carried concealed and went about my day. One of those places, Whole Foods, evidently got wise to their lack of compliance and got around to posting the necessary language, though not “to code” as our head honcho Farago pointed out back in January.
And to keep my nose clean, I’d never admit that I’ve ever carried a handgun in a place with one of those signs anyway. I’m a law abiding citizen. But I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that it is very easy to get surprised by one since there’s no legal requirement or hoops to jump through to post one. For example: IKEA.
When my wife and I finally purchased our first home, we needed some furnishings and I wanted to assemble something with the worst tools possible for the job. So naturally, we travelled north to the IKEA store in Round Rock. Like any other day of the year, I was carrying.
As you might imagine, Saturday afternoon at IKEA is a happening place, and we found ourselves having to park a great ways away to find an open spot. Gun on my hip and AmEx burning a hole in my pocket, we set off toward the great furniture showroom over the hill.
Upon completing our trek, I couldn’t help but notice the properly displayed 30.06 sign letting us know that as lawfully armed Texans, we’d be facing a $4000 fine and/or a year in the slammer for crossing the threshold. Now, I would never break the law, so of course we hiked back, secured my firearm in my truck, and hiked back once more to give an anti-gun company our money. Please leave your supportive comments regarding this decision in the section below.
We could have just as easily waltzed on in, content to wrap ourselves in the security that “concealed means concealed” and that if anybody saw my firearm, it was likely because it was being used legally. And I think we’d be silly to think that 100% of the time, 100% of the 30.06 signs keep 100% of the CHL equipped Texans from carrying. But as you can plainly seen, that’s because the guns can’t be plainly seen.
As long as the 30.06 and new 30.07 language is on the books, open carry will be a paper tiger in the Lone Star State. Law abiding citizens with lots to lose simply can’t run the risk of being arrested and prosecuted by an overzealous DA. I’ve worked far too hard for far too long to spend a year in jail for exercising the rights protected by the Constitution.
My brother-in-law called me earlier this week to ask me some questions about open carry as it’s been big news lately. We chatted about the points above, and he agreed that our licensing scheme disproportionately affects the hardworking poor. We chatted a bit more about the 51% and 30.06 signs and he agreed that it seemed like a minefield for the lawful citizen. And then he asked what we both knew was coming.
“When open carry legislation passes, will you carry openly?”
To which I answered, “It depends.” Out in the rural parts of Texas I frequent for hunting, hiking, camping, and adventuring, I’d say the odds of me carrying openly are a big fat probably. It will be nice to go into town after a morning deer hunt and not have to throw on a big jacket to cover up.
But in Austin and various other metro areas, I’ll probably still keep my piece under wraps. Austin isn’t exactly welcoming when it comes to guns, and the 30.06 signs pop up in all sorts of unexpected places. Risking a $4000 fine, the loss of my CHL, and potentially a year behind bars will dissuade me from exercising the right in all but the most controlled circumstances.