While many advocates of House Bill 910 tout the bill’s passage as a big win for the Second Amendment, the law creates new and interesting challenges for business and property owners.   HB 910 did not change the rules and restrictions already in place as to concealed handguns. These laws are still applicable and apply to Open Carry as well. Generally, prior to the passage of HB 910, a person could obtain a license to carry a conceal

texas-concealed-carry-sign-nhb-28237_1000ed handgun and after obtaining that license could carry a concealed handgun in most bu
sinesses unless the business or property owner posted a sign in compliance with State law that prohibited concealed handguns on their premises. The sign prohibiting concealed handguns is referred to generally as a Section 30.06 sign.

What the passage of HB 910 basically accomplished was to authorize individuals to openly carry a handgun in places where carrying of a concealed handgun had previously been allowed, with the following two exceptions. The first exception is that open carry is not permitted on the premises and any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage or other parking area of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education. The second exception will not affect many CHL permit holders. It prohibits individuals acting as personal protection officers under Chapter 1702, Texas Occupations Code, who are not wearing a uniform from openly carrying a handgun.

When an individual is openly carrying a handgun, HB 910 requires the handgun to be carried in a shoulder or belt holster, whether the gun is loaded or unloaded. The criteria for obtaining a license to carry a handgun (concealed or openly) were not changed by HB 910. Current holders of concealed handgun licenses may continue to carry handguns with that license, and current license holders will not be required to attend additional training or pay any additional fee to openly carry a handgun. New applicants for handgun licenses will be required to complete training which will be updated to reflect the new requirements relating to the use of restraint holders and other methods to ensure the secure carrying of openly carried handguns.

Important to business owners, businesses may continue to prohibit the carrying of handguns, whether concealed or open, in their place of business. In order to do so, the business owner should post signs on the property to prohibit entry by a licensed holder with a handgun. There is required statutory language for this signage. The open carry sign is generally referred to as a Section 30.07 sign. If a business owner wants to prohibit both concealed and open carry, both the Section 30.06 and Section 30.07 signs must be displayed in English and Spanish.

Apart from the purely mechanical obligations HB 910 creates, many businesses have felt thrust into a political debate that they might rather have avoided. For instance, Open Carry Texas, one of the organizations that helped spur the Legislature into action on the issue, wants business owners to know that opting out of open carry can carry financial consequences. The group sells 50 packs of cards for supporters of the law to pass out to businesses displaying 30.07 signs to inform management that, because they can’t bring their guns in, they won’t be spending money there. A quick survey of the messages posted to Facebook around the New Year reveals that people on the opposite side of the issue have their own cards that remind businesses that they will not patronize businesses where open carry is permitted.

Likely, most businesses will be looking for a “neutral” position to take. Public companies usually recognize that their responsibility is to their shareholders which requires they alienate as few of their customers as possible. As reported in Texas Monthly, Whataburger’s CEO wrote this blog post over the summer when then the law was signed:

“[A]s a representative of Whataburger, I want you to know we proudly serve the gun rights community. I personally enjoy hunting and also have my concealed carry license, as do others at Whataburger.

From a business standpoint, though, we have to think about how open carry impacts our 34,000+ employees and millions of customers. We serve customers from all walks of life at more than 780 locations, 24 hours a day, in 10 states and we’re known for a family friendly atmosphere that customers have come to expect from us. We’re the gathering spot for Little League teams, church groups and high school kids after football games.

We’ve had many customers and employees tell us they’re uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm who is not a member of law enforcement, and as a business, we have to listen and value that feedback in the same way we value yours. We have a responsibility to make sure everyone who walks into our restaurants feels comfortable. For that reason, we don’t restrict licensed concealed carry but do ask customers not to open carry in our restaurants.”

Surprisingly, some online groups who support Second Amendment rights feel that open carry has done more to harm their cause than help. As one post lamented, “If you’re making one sign for open carry it’s just as easy to make two [and prevent both open and concealed carry.”] In 2016, in Texas, open carry is the law of the land, and no matter how apolitical a business would like to be, every business owner is now confronted with the choice of whether open carry on their premises is what’s best for business.

Samuel B. Burke is board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Civil Trial Law and may be contacted at sburke@dentonlaw.com and http://www.dentonlaw.com.