The Texas Legislature has been busy passing legislation relating to handgun possession in the Lone Star state. Two bills were passed which will go into effect in 2016: a) House Bill No. 910 which legalizes the non-concealed carrying of handguns and goes into effect January 1, 2016; and b) Senate Bill No. 11, which legalizes the carrying of concealed weapons on certain university and college campuses and goes into effect, for most campuses, on August 1, 2016.
House Bill No. 910 (the “Open Carry” Law)
Permitted Possession: In short, HB 910 permits handgun license holders to carry a handgun openly (as opposed to in a concealed manner) anywhere a concealed handgun is permitted in Texas, provided the handgun is secured in a shoulder or belt holster. The law does not change the licensed holder’s right to still carry a handgun in a concealed manner.
Illegal Possession: It remains illegal under Texas’ Penal Code to carry a handgun – concealed or non-concealed – in certain places like schools, certain sporting events, hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities, amusement parks, churches and synagogues, government buildings, and airports.
Property Owner’s Notice to Handgun License Holders: If property owners plan to prohibit the possession of handguns on their property, they must comply with the new notice requirements under HB 910. The new law requires that property owners create and display a written sign that contains the express language of the relevant Penal Code provisions regarding the prohibition on concealed and non-concealed handguns. The property owner can decide whether to prevent all handguns or only concealed or non-concealed handguns. Depending on what the owner decides, one or both of the following signs must be posted:
- For Concealed Handguns: “PURSUANT TO SECTION 30.06, PENAL CODE (TRESPASS BY HOLDER OF A LICENSE TO CARRY A CONCEALED HANDGUN) A PERSON LICENSED UNDER SUBCHAPTER H, CHAPTER 411, GOVERNMENT CODE (CONCEALED HANDGUN LAW), MAY NOT ENTER THIS PROPERTY WITH A CONCEALED HANDGUN.”
- For Non-Concealed (Openly Carried) Handguns: “PURSUANT TO SECTION 30.07, PENAL CODE (TRESPASS BY LICENSE HOLDER WITH AN OPENLY CARRIED HANDGUN), A PERSON LICENSED UNDER SUBCHAPTER H, CHAPTER 411, GOVERNMENT CODE (HANDGUN LICENSING LAW), MAY NOT ENTER THIS PROPERTY WITH A HANDGUN THAT IS CARRIED OPENLY.”
To be compliant under the law, the signs should be posted by January 1, 2016 and must be:
- In contrasting colors with block letters that are at least one inch in height;
- Displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public; and
- Be in both English and Spanish.
Employer’s Right to Prohibit Handguns: Texas employers may still prohibit employees from possessing handguns – concealed or non-concealed – on the employer’s premises or while conducting the employer’s business. However, under Texas law employees still have the right to lawfully store and/or transport guns securely in their private vehicle.
Texas employers should review their policies and rules and update them to comply with the new law and clearly communicate to employees the rules regarding gun possession while at work. Employers should also post applicable signs in their workplace to prohibit concealed and non-concealed handguns in the workplace.
Senate Bill No. 11 (the “Campus Carry” Law)
Senate Bill 11 provides that a license holder of a concealed handgun may carry a concealed handgun on or about the license holder’s person while the license holder is on the campus of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education in Texas. It further restricts, except in limited circumstances, the rights of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education in Texas to adopt any rule, regulation, or other provision prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns on the campus of the institution.
The law requires that, after consulting with students, staff, and faculty of the institution regarding the nature of the student population, specific safety considerations, and the uniqueness of the campus environment, the institution shall establish and publish reasonable rules, regulations, or other provisions regarding the carrying of concealed handguns by license holders on the campus. However, those rules may not prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus. The law also requires that on September 1st of each even-numbered year, each covered university or college must submit a report to the legislature and the applicable standing committees with jurisdiction over the law that describes the institution’s rules and regulations and why they were established.
Covered colleges and universities may establish rules, regulations, or other provisions concerning the storage of handguns in dormitories or other residential facilities that are owned or leased and operated by the institution and located on the campus of the institution. As part of its rule making process, the institution must give effective notice – consistent with the notice requirements under the Texas Penal Code – with respect to any portion of the campus on which license holders may not carry.
A license holder commits an offense if the license holder carries a handgun on the campus of a college or university that has established rules, regulations, or other provisions prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns pursuant to applicable law, or on the grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by such an institution is being conducted, or in a passenger transportation vehicle of such an institution, regardless of whether the handgun is concealed, provided the institution gave effective notice to the license holder.
Finally, the law provides colleges and universities, and their respective officers and employees, with certain protections from liability arising out of the actions of a license holder of a concealed handgun.
Public and private colleges and universities in Texas should work with their counsel to analyze the law and begin to evaluate the nature of their student population, any specific safety considerations, and the uniqueness of their campus environment so that they can comply with the new law by the August 1, 2016 effective date.
Copies of HB 910 and SB 11 can be found at: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/pdf/HB00910F.pdf#navpanes=0 and http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/pdf/SB00011F.pdf#navpanes=0 respectively.