AUSTIN (KXAN) — In less than a month, people with a handgun carry permit will be allowed to openly carry in Texas. The state will join the ranks of all but a handful of others that allow the open carrying of handguns. At a Public Safety Commission meeting Monday, the Austin Police Department gave a presentation outlining how that change in law will impact officers and the department’s overall response.
Keep in mind, you must have a handgun license to openly carry. State law says, “A peace officer may disarm a license holder at any time the officer reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the license holder, officer or another individual.”
But but several law enforcement associations based in Austin have questions and concerns about how the new Open Carry law will actually play out.
“I think different agencies, different prosecutors, have different ideas about exactly what authority police officers are going to have with regard to approaching someone who is openly carrying a firearm in a holster,” Texas Municipal Association Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said. “The question is, at what point can the officer insist that the individual actually display [the] license?”
“What CLEAT wants to do is be proactive in this and we are setting up a training course for the officers that will give them best practices on how to make sure that any encounter between someone openly carrying and the officer… ends well,” John Moritz, a spokesman for CLEAT (Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas) told KXAN.
To better ensure that situations “end well,” CLEAT pushed lawmakers to make three changes to the bill. The changes never made it into the final version, which became law.
“We expressed the concerns that we had. Are we going to be able to ask reasonable questions of someone openly carrying? Will their license be displayed on their person so an officer can see it and immediately be assured that… he has the perfect right to carry that gun openly?” Moritz explained, and finally, “Is there a restraint on his holster that would keep that gun in place?”
Moritz said, “If you think about what could go wrong, those are the things that could go wrong for the officer.”
KXAN’s Kylie McGivern asked Lawrence, a year from now, “What is something you hope you’re NOT saying? About how it played out?”
“I hope I’m not saying man, that was a really big mistake that you guys made. You know, I hope it doesn’t end with people getting hurt or officers getting fired or – because we have a law that folks don’t fully understand,” Lawrence responded.
During Monday’s meeting, APD discussed how there are several factors to take into consideration if the need comes up to “disarm a person who is openly carrying based on the fact the officer ‘reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the license holder, officer, or another individual.'” Those include:
- Reason for the stop
- Backup present
- Demeanor (e.g., hostile/agitated)
- Type of holster (shoulder or belt)
- Whether or not to handcuff the subject
- Lethal Cover (e.g., hostile subject who is openly carrying)
- Verbal Commands
- Environment (e.g., crowded street or alley)
- Return of the weapon after disarming if no arrest is warranted
In its report to the Public Safety Commission, APD said every time an officer disarms a license holder, they will have to write a report. APD said it should be noted that a person with no handgun license may still carry a handgun in a car, as long as it is concealed, and there is still no licensing requirement in order to openly carry a long gun.
Also, APD reported, “The rules related to where and when a license holder may openly carry are essentially identical to where and when a concealed handgun license holder can carry under current law.” Meaning businesses will still have the ability to post required signage prohibiting either open or concealed carry, and a person commits a Class B misdemeanor offense if he or she intentionally or knowingly “displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm.”
The state’s new open carry law goes into effect January 1st.