By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
On Jan. 1, Texas became the 25th state to allow the open carry of handguns.
And while representatives with the Austin Police Department spoke openly last year about an expected surge in 911 calls due to the new law, the first two months of 2016 have been very quiet.
“There have been less calls than expected for this,” said APD training officer Michael Barker.
In fact, Barker said APD has only received one call since Jan. 1 related to the new law. He said there have not been any incidents of individuals openly carrying a handgun near facilities such as schools or churches.
“I am not aware of any incidents where individuals were openly carrying near vulnerable facilities,” Barker said. “If a caller reports to 911 that someone is openly carrying near a vulnerable facility and the caller is requesting an officer, then APD will respond.”
Under the new open carry law, private property owners may exclude gun license holders from carrying openly on their property by giving effective notice.
On Jan. 27, Austin Baptist Church adopted a policy that it will not allow open carry on church property.
“We, along with many other places of worship, do not feel open carry is appropriate in any way in our context,” said David Procter, ABC executive pastor. “The only exception is the commissioned police officer who is now present every Sunday morning.”
He said the church is currently working on a policy regarding concealed handguns.
“Concealed carry may be a different matter,” Procter said. “People could be carrying concealed weapons every Sunday and we simply are unaware of it. People can be licensed to do so legally. We have made no decisions about that yet.”
Officer Barker has led a number of community meetings to educate both religious and business leaders about their rights under the open carry law.
“If a private business or church does not want someone to openly or conceal carry, then they can post a (Texas Penal Code) 30.06 or 30.07 sign prohibiting open or concealed carry,” Barker said.
While there are guidelines regarding a sign’s wording, appearance and location, signs are not required in order to prohibit a person from open carry, Barker said.
Procter attended one of the community meetings in January along with a number of other area pastors.
“Most of those in attendance were pastors interested in the issues surrounded the state’s new rules regarding open carry,” Procter said. “(Barker) is very well-informed about the practical and legal issues.”
Many other Austin businesses have banned open carry on their premises including H-E-B, Costco, Target, Whole Foods, Torchy’s Tacos and Alamo Drafthouse. Businesses that make more than 51 percent of their sales from on-premises alcohol consumption automatically prohibit the carrying of firearms, by law.
On Jan. 5, the Steiner Ranch Homeowner’s Association sent out an email that said open carry is prohibited on any HOA facilities and property.
Barker said that individuals who attempt to open carry where it has been banned can be asked to leave. If the person refuses, he advised calling 911 and let the police handle the situation rather than attempting to disarm the individual.
The penalty for openly carrying a handgun onto private property after receiving notice that it is prohibited is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $200, however, the offense will be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor if it is shown at trial that, after entering the property, the license holder was personally given the notice by oral communication and subsequently failed to depart.
Open carry signage
Effective 1/1/2016, a sign posted under §30.07, Texas Penal Code, must do the following:
- Include the following text in English and in Spanish: “Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly.”
- Appear in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height; and
- Be displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public at each entrance to the property.