Today I attended a presentation by Texas Law Shield, a legal defense program for self defense shootings, on recent changes to the Texas gun laws pertaining to concealed carry and open carry of handguns.
Much of the discussion centered around the advent of open carry (OC) of handguns in Texas. Despite the state's reputation of being a gun-friendly state, Texas will become the 44th state to permit open carry in January. We are way behind the curve on this.
One of the biggest issues that came up in the open carry debate in the Texas Legislature centered around the ability of law enforcement to stop someone engaging in OC and ask to see their concealed handgun license. License holders generally fall into two camps on how best to respond to such inquiries - either they say they will refuse to comply (citing their Fourth Amendment rights) or who will provide them everything they ask for (claiming they have nothing to hide.)
We learned from the presenters - both of whom were experienced criminal law attorneys - that law enforcement agencies in Texas are going to push their officers to ask all OC practitioners to show proof of their CHL. Law enforcement officers in San Antonio are reportedly being told "CHL holders were good guys yesterday, but you don’t know if they are today.”
Aside from legal issues stemming from such stop and ask policies, it's clear to me - someone who lobbies legislators for a living and monitored the debate on open carry closely - that the first six months of 2016 will be critical in determining the future of open carry in Texas. I am recommending to anyone who will listen to think like the Mormon missionaries we see from time to time: be as polite and as helpful as you can to everyone you meet, particularly when you are engaging in OC. This especially applies when dealing with law enforcement asking to see your CHL if you are openly carrying a firearm. We want law enforcement officers to quickly surmise that those of us who are CHL holders are good citizens who are simply taking initiative for our own well being. And we want the rest of the public to think that those who are in the OC crowd are the nicest people you could meet.
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