How ready is Texas law enforcement for open carry?

Hard to say. But we’ll begin to find out soon enough.

Texas law enforcement has also been pretty vocal about their concerns with open carry. They are, after all, the group who’ll have to deal with most of the potential fallout of the new law in the upcoming months. While a majority of police chiefs have expressed a general opposition to the law (75 percent, according to a survey in February) , they were most vocal in May when a provision was added that would prevent police officers from stopping people solely because they were openly carrying a gun. By then, the passing of open carry seemed inevitable, so even Democrats who were originally opposed to the law supported the provision in hopes that it would help prevent the targeting of people of color openly carrying handguns.

“What’s going to happen is more interaction between police and black and brown and poor people because of lawful activity,” Rep. Harold Dutton told KXAN.

The provision made some sense, especially considering issues of racial profiling among Texas state troopers, but it was flawed. In May, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference that the provision would “handcuff” police officers and prevent them from doing their jobs. He was accompanied by members of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, and police unions from Houston and Dallas.


Experts predict that open carry will most likely take place in small numbers in rural areas, but unlike Oklahoma, six of the most populous cities in the country are in Texas: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso. And that’s not taking into account the political climate around gun control in Texas this year. There have been number of demonstrators openly carrying rifles in large cities, the most recent being a group of armed protestors in front of a mosque in Irving and demonstrators who marched with rifles near UT-Austin and later held a mock mass shooting to protest “gun-free zones.” It’s still unclear why they felt the need to protest what would soon be law.

But one of the biggest concerns of law enforcement is establishing the fine line between respecting the rights of someone legally carrying a handgun and protecting the general public. “What happens when an officer sees someone openly carrying a handgun in a holster, in accordance with the law, what can an officer legally do?” Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told the Houston Chronicle. “We keep getting more questions than answers.”

The fear is that open carry will make it harder for police officers to tell the difference between a law-abiding citizen legally carrying a gun and someone with criminal intentions carrying a gun. In the Houston Chronicle, comments like these from Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, don’t really help to clarify things.

Houston police, he said, will not “be doing random stops of people simply to see if they have a CHL,” but they also will not “sit back for 30 minutes” if they have a reasonable suspicion to stop someone.

So, what will they do?

Click over and see. I think open carry is bad policy, but I also think it will have a relatively minimal effect. You have to have a concealed carry license in order to be able to carry openly, and it was already legal before now for any yahoo with a cheap Soldier of Fortune fantasy to carry any manner of rifle around in public, as we have seen over and over again. It’s the interaction between law enforcement and those who will be openly carrying that is hard to predict. If I had a CHL, I’d probably continue to carry my weapon in a concealed fashion, because who needs the hassle? But then I’m not the type of person who likes to invite trouble to make a point. The other questions involve where people can carry, and how many lawsuits are going to be filed because someone disagreed with someone else’s interpretation of that, and also with how businesses will cater to those who want to carry and those who want to not be around people who carry. I won’t be surprised if that first issue, for this and for campus carry, is revisited in 2017.

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3 Responses to How ready is Texas law enforcement for open carry?

  1. Ross says:

    How ever ready law enforcement is, they won’t be helped by the groups of folks who have said they will call police, or will shout “gun, gun”, every time they see an openly carried handgun. Nor will it be helped by those same sort of folks making snarky comments about penis size to anyone carrying openly. I am not a fan of open carry, and the concerns about CHL holders being arrested for inadvertent display could have been handled differently, but it’s here for now, and something we have to deal with. Keep in mind that CHL holders are more law abiding than the average population, which should reduce the potential for issues.

  2. matx says:

    Ross, agree that CHL holders are likely more law-abiding (they still forget they have their guns, like this incident – At least with open carry they are less likely to “forget” they have a gun, and since it is supposed to be securely holstered, less likely to be dropped from a pocket or handbag and accidentally discharge.

    I am also not a fan of open carry, and I imagine most people who currently carry concealed will likely continue to do so. Other states have allowed it and there does not seem to be issues. In Texas I fear some will open carry (not just CHL holders) just to cause a confrontation either with a private business owner, law enforcement or someone they have a grudge against.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    “The fear is that open carry will make it harder for police officers to tell the difference between a law-abiding citizen legally carrying a gun and someone with criminal intentions carrying a gun.”

    I don’t know why anyone would want to open carry their gun; it doesn’t make sense to me. However, why do police officers need to “tell the difference between a law abiding citizen and someone with criminal intentions?” Intentions can only be divined by mind readers. How can the police tell if someone is walking down the street with a concealed weapon? they can’t. Can’t concealed weapons be carried by both law abiding citizens and someone with criminal intentions. Sure. The same as open carry. So what is the big deal, I don’t know.

    In other states, open carry is not so restrictive as in Texas. I am from Pennsylvania, where, if you aren’t a felon, you can buy a gun, strap it on and walk out of the shop. No permit needed, no training and no restrictions. But, you don’t see many folks carrying openly there. The law has been that way forever with no major problems, and so I don’t see why Texas with its more restrictive laws should have big difficulties with this.

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