On Jan. 1, handguns across Texas will come out of hiding as the state’s new open carry law overrides the concealed carry law.
“Don’t be alarmed and overreact when you see someone open carry a firearm,” said Sealy Police Chief Chris Noble.
The same rules that governed concealed carry handgun permits apply to open carry. The only difference is that handguns may now be worn holstered in plain view rather than hidden from sight.
“Wherever you can carry concealed you can carry open,” he said.
“The gun has to be holstered … on the shoulder, the hip, in pants, under a coat … it has to be holstered,” Austin County Sheriff Jack Brandes said.
The two lawmen said the main difference in the current law and the one that takes affect on Jan. 1 is the visibility of the weapon.
“That’s the crux of the entire fight about it,” Noble said.
There are laws governing places where handguns are not permitted. Those places basically include school facilities, courthouses, jails and places where governmental entities meet. They also include places where there is clear signage prohibiting guns, open or concealed.
Noble and Brandes said they have never had a problem with anyone armed with a conceal carry license and they predict it will be the same under the open carry law.
“I have never had an issue with concealed carry,” Brandes said.
Noble said that people with a handgun license have been through a rigorous training program, are taught the applicable laws and have had background checks with the FBI. He feels very comfortable around people with handgun licenses. So does Brandes.
“The people that have these licenses are good people – good, honest, hard-working, law-abiding people,” Brandes said.
Noble predicts that there will be an initial display of handguns after Jan. 1, but he thinks it will be short lived.
“On the front end you may see people carrying weapons openly simply just because they can,” he said. “After a while I think they will once again conceal them.”
He said he does not foresee a return to the days of the Wild West with pistol-packing cowboys and shootouts at high noon on Main Street.
The one thing that most concerns Brandes is any attempt to prohibit the lawful possession of guns.
“I am a Constitutional sheriff. I support the Constitution of the United States of America … especially the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms,” he said.
He said he “lives and dies by this.”
“We cannot as American citizens afford to have any infringement on the Constitution whatsoever,” he said.
It’s that fear of banning guns, and not the new open carry law, that is driving firearm sales right now at Fat Dog Firearms in Bellville. Salesman Jacob Czarnecki said sales spike whenever there is a mass shooting in the news and speculation begins to grow about the government banning some types of guns.
“The AR type weapons are difficult to get right now,” he said of the demand for the guns.
He said the open carry law has not affected sales.
Brandes, who has conducted open carry classes for all of his deputies and staff, said because it is a new law in the state that there is no case law behind it. He said the courts will have to make interpretations of the law as cases wind their way through the system.