A little more than three months after Texas became the 45th state to allow individuals to openly carry holstered handguns in public, the effect on most employers has been negligible.
Indeed, most Texans have yet to see someone other than a law enforcement officer or commissioned security guard openly carrying a handgun.
Under the law, which became effective January 1st, businesses can prevent individuals from carrying handguns, concealed or openly, on their property.
While a company can use any means to communicate their policy regarding guns, they must make specific communications if they wish to ensure to ensure that those licensed to carry a holstered handgun are committing a crime by carrying onto the property.
Option One: Prohibit open carry by verbally notifying the individual “that entry on the property by a license holder openly carrying a handgun was forbidden.”
Option Two: Prohibit open carry by providing the individual with “a card or other document on which is written language identical to the following: ‘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.’”
Option Three: Prohibit open carry by conspicuously displaying a sign containing the same language as in option two in both English and Spanish at each entrance to the property. The sign must contain block letters one inch in height and in contrasting colors to the rest of the sign.
With both languages and the one-inch font height, the resulting sign will likely be around 3.5 square feet, which many businesses found aesthetically unpleasing.
Option Four: Prohibit concealed carry by verbally notifying the individual “that entry on the property by a license holder with a concealed handgun [is] forbidden.” (This begs the question that if the handgun is concealed, how the business would know to give them the verbal notification.)
Option Five: Prohibit concealed carry by providing “a card or other document on which is written language identical to the following: ‘Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.”
Option Six: Prohibit concealed carry by displaying a sign containing the same language as in option five in both English and Spanish “in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.” While the sign must appear “in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height,” note that there is no requirement that the sign be posted at every entrance – only that it be “clearly visible to the public.”
As with option three, this sign is probably going to run around 3.5 square feet.
Finally, businesses that currently prohibit the concealed carrying of handguns should note that the revised law necessitated changes to the language of the sign, so signs posted under the prior law no longer conform to the law’s requirements.
If the business’ notices meet one or more of the legal requirements outlined above, an individual who does carry a handgun into the business is guilty of trespassing (a class C misdemeanor). If, after receiving verbal notification that carrying a handgun is prohibited, the individual fails to depart the property, the offense becomes a class A misdemeanor.
Real World Business Considerations
Since the new law took effect on January 1st, businesses have responded in different ways.
First, the law only defines what constitutes criminal trespass by a license holder. A business can legally put up any sign, institute any policy, or do nothing at all. The law doesn’t control what employers do.
Some businesses have done nothing, allowing employees and the public to carry handguns on their property. All of those with whom I’ve spoken said that they have yet to even see someone openly carrying a handgun on the premises.
Indeed, state-certified license-to-carry instructors have said that openly carrying a holstered firearm may make one the first target of an assailant.
Other businesses have decided that they absolutely do not want handguns on their premises and want to ensure their position it is expressly clear to licensees. Often, these employers have posted the English and Spanish versions of both the concealed carry and open carry prohibition signs (approximately seven square feet of signage).
Many businesses do not want handguns carried on their premises, at least openly, and are following the lead of companies likeTarget and Starbucks. Rather than legally prohibiting handguns, these companies are publicly requesting that patrons not bring handguns or other weapons onto their premises.
Some do this by posting “gunbuster” signs that do not comply with the provisions of the law. If an employer does not want the clutter of a seven square feet of signage, there is nothing in the law that prohibits them from placing smaller, less obtrusive signs at each public entrance.
“Gunbuster” signs often are simply a graphic with the silhouette of a handgun overlaid with a “no” symbol (the circle and backslash).
While a license holder ignoring such a sign would not be illegally trespassing, such signs communicate clearly the business’ wishes and that, if necessary, the business will ask the individual to leave the property.
Other businesses are foregoing signs altogether, preferring that their receptionist or security guards hand all visitors cards containing the language, solely in English, from options two and five above.
In situations where visitors are required to sign in upon arrival, some businesses are placing the cards next to the sign-in book. Above each signature, they are including language stating that the visitor has received the card and will comply with the company’s wishes.
Many employers with whom I’ve consulted already had policies that prohibit employees from carrying weapons outside of their locked cars. Some are adding the language in options two and five above to those policies or employee handbooks and distributing copies to every employee, effectively making it a crime for an employee to violate the company policy.
However, Texas Labor Code Section 52.061 proscribes employers from prohibiting employees from “transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition the employee is authorized by law to possess in a locked, privately owned motor vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees.” In other words, employees can have their legal weapon in their locked car without interference by the business.
For all of the attention given to Texas’ decision to license individuals to openly carry a handgun, there has been very little real-world affect on most businesses in the three months since the law’s effective date.