If you are a Texan (or got here as soon as you could), then you have no doubt been asked at some point about your ranch, horse, pick-up truck and gun. From the early days of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their Wild Bunch friends, Texas has been that mysterious Wild West place where people make and lose fortunes and outlaws achieve hero status. The trappings of Texas, which definitely include guns, are certainly wrapped up in that image.
Like many states, Texas outlawed open carry of handguns after the Civil War with An Act to Regulate the Keeping and Bearing of Deadly Weapons of 1871, but "long guns" (shotguns, rifles, etc.) have always been permitted to be carried openly in Texas.
In 1995, Texas passed a law allowing for Texans to obtain a Concealed Handgun License ("CHL"), which permits license holders to carry concealed handguns. And effective as of January 1, 2016, Texas joins the majority of states that permit the licensed open carry.
Fast forward to 2016, take off your ten-gallon hat and put on your Employer hat or your Business Owner hat. Are you prepared for the open carry of handguns in your business? More than 830,000 Texans have their CHLs, and under the new law, may openly carry handguns.
To be eligible to receive a CHL, the applicant must:
- Be a resident of Texas for at least 6 months
- Be at least 21 years old (or 18 years old and in the military or honorably discharged)
- Not a felon, not been convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor within 5 years or currently charged with certain Class A or B misdemeanors or a felony
- Not a fugitive from justice
- Not chemically dependent
- Not behind in child support or taxes
- Not currently the subject of a protective order
There are also a number of places where CHL holders already may not carry handguns at all: Federal buildings, schools (excluding colleges), public sporting events, businesses posting a 51% sign (nightclubs, bars, taverns, etc.), jails, courthouses, election polling places, racetracks, amusement parks, places of worship, certain hospitals, government meetings, and any other place while such holder is intoxicated.
Just because the State of Texas permits the open carry of handguns does not mean that employers must also do so. Employers may determine their own gun policies in all areas of their "premises" - they may ban guns entirely, allow only concealed weapons or permit open carry. "Premises" means a building or a portion of a building. The term does not include any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area, meaning that Employees are permitted to leave their handguns in their cars in the company parking lot openly displayed, and Employers may not limit this right. Employers may, however, designate gun-free parking areas or otherwise direct where employees with guns park. Employers may prohibit the transport and storage of guns in their vehicles as well.
Employers seeking to limit the carry of handguns in company buildings must have (a) proper signage that strictly complies with the Texas Penal Code ?30.06 and ?30.07 (in English and Spanish) and (b) written policies distributed to employees outlining the Employer's gun policies.
Despite the fact that Texas has always allowed the open carry of long guns and has permitted the concealed carry of handguns for 20 years, most employers and businesses do not have a gun policy. While most employee policy handbooks include anti-violence in the workplace provisions, few address the possession of guns or other weapons by employees and visitors. Every business property owner and every employer should make a conscious decision about whether to allow guns on its property and, if so, under what circumstances, and these policies should be clearly communicated in writing and posted if necessary.