What to Know About Open Carry Laws in Texas

The new law has created questions among handgun owners who possess a concealed handgun license

Beginning on January 1, 2016, Texas handgun owners who possess a concealed handgun license (CHL), allowing them to carry a concealed handgun in certain places, are now permitted to carry their handguns openly in a belt or shoulder holster. While some are championing the new law as a triumph of Texans’ Second Amendment rights, others are predicting that the new law will do little to increase public safety. Both sides, however, can agree that the new law has created questions among handgun owners and CHL holders.

What does the new law allow me to do?

If you already have a CHL, Texas’ new law permits you to open carry your handgun in a belt or shoulder holster anywhere that you previously could have concealed carried your handgun. If you don’t have a CHL, you must first obtain one before open carrying a handgun in a public place.

Do I need a separate license to open carry?

No. As long as you have a valid CHL, you do not have to complete any additional classes or requirements before you are permitted to open carry; nor does the law change the requirements or process for obtaining a CHL.

Are there places I can’t open carry?

Yes. Individuals are not permitted to open carry a handgun—regardless of whether you have a CHL—on the property of an institution of higher education, including streets, walkways, sidewalks and parking areas. This prohibition applies to both public and private colleges and universities.

Can police stop and question me if I am open carrying?

Yes, under the new law, a police officer can stop and question a person who is open carrying a handgun for the purpose of determining whether he or she has a valid CHL license. If police obtain additional information during the course of verifying the person’s license that causes them to suspect another crime is being (or has been) committed, police may be able to detain the person further.

Can I face criminal charges for open carrying a handgun?

Maybe, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. If you were involved in a fight, for example, and you pulled your handgun and pointed it at the other person, you could face aggravated assault charges unless you had a legally sufficient reason for having done so. A Texas criminal defense attorney will need to examine your unique situation in order to determine how to handle criminal charges that come from displaying your handgun. 
For more information on this area of law, see our civil rights overview.

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