Beginning January 1,2016 Texans with a concealed handgun license (CHL), now to be called license to carry (LTC), will be able to openly carry their handgun in most public places as long as the handgun is in a shoulder or belt holster. Surprisingly, with the passage of this law Texas becomes the 45th state in the nation to allow some form of open carry. This law is essentially an extension of the current concealed carry law that Texas enacted many years ago. The requirements to obtain a LTC remain the same; 6 months Texas residency, no felony conviction, 21 years old, training course, etc. The law makes no distinction between a loaded and unloaded firearm.

The new law, as with the old law, allows a person with a LTC to carry their handgun onto private property as long as the owner of the property does not display specific signage prohibiting it. Further, a private property owner could disallow only open carry while allowing concealed carry and vice versa. To prohibit any firearms on private property requires the owner to display two separate signs addressing each. There are other exceptions to where a person may carry a handgun. These apply whether the firearm is concealed or openly carried.

A person with a LTC may not do so at places that have a permit to serve alcohol and derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale of alcohol (bars), on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place, on the premises of a correctional facility, on the premises of a licensed hospital or nursing home, at an amusement park, on the premises of a church, synagogue or established place of religious worship and at a meeting of a governmental entity. It is also illegal to carry while intoxicated.

School grounds or buildings where a school activity is being conducted, polling places, government court or court offices, the premises of a racetrack, a secured area of an airport and within 1000 feet of a premises designated as a place of execution on the day a sentence of death is set to be imposed are also prohibited. The new law prohibits openly carrying on the premises of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education or any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage or other parking area of these institutions. However, a law which becomes effective on August 1, 2016 will allow a LTC holder to possess a concealed handgun essentially anywhere on a college campus.

Colleges will have some discretion in making rules concerning exactly where a person may carry. Current law allows one to carry a concealed handgun only on driveways, walkways, sidewalks and parking areas of a university campus. Since one must be 21 years of age to obtain a LTC, many students could not obtain a license anyway. Further, open carry is not permitted by an individual who is acting as a personal protection officer under Chapter 1702 Occupations code and is not wearing a uniform.

Obviously the big change is the open carry portion of the law. In day to day life it will be interesting to see which private businesses and places of large public drawings will prohibit open carry.