Attorney, law enforcement provide insight on constitutional carry laws

Permitless carry now in effect, but doesn’t apply to everyone. Experts urge gun owners to learn the law before you carry
Permitless carry became law in Texas on Sept 1
Permitless carry became law in Texas on Sept 1(KBTX)
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 7:05 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -Texas recently joined 19 other states in becoming the latest state to allow anyone who legally owns a gun to carry it in public without a license. However, if you’re considering carry your firearm openly, there are things to keep in mind.

House Bill 1927, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, eliminates the requirement for Texans to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not prohibited by other state or federal law from possessing a gun.

Criminal defense attorney Shane Phelps of the Law Offices of Shane Phelps P.C. says the new law is not as simple as walking out the door with a gun in your hand.

“There are several things to keep in mind about this new law. First of all, it’s only for people who are 21 years of age or older, and you’ve got to have a clean criminal history. One of the things that this new law does not do is, if prior to September 1st, you are not legally able to carry a weapon, you cannot carry one. This law does not change that. There are a number of other exceptions, so it’s a fairly convoluted law,” said Phelps. “What it effectively does is wipes out the requirement for a background check in Texas. It wiped out the requirement for having a concealed handgun license. It wipes out any requirements for training and qualification. There are still a number of things that folks who are interested in carrying a weapon need to be mindful of.”

Phelps says that gun owners or anyone considering purchasing a gun should read up on the law for themselves.

“They need to read the statute carefully, and if they have any questions, they probably should sit down with a lawyer who can walk them through the statute because it’s pretty long and involved,” said Phelps.

Phelps says people who couldn’t possess a gun legally prior to the new law might not be able to possess one now.

“One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that there are certain prohibitions against carrying a weapon for certain people. So if anybody has a criminal history of any kind, but particularly if you’re a convicted felon, you may not possess a firearm. If you are convicted of any offense involving family violence, you can’t possess a firearm under this new statute. There are also federal laws that regulate the carrying of firearms that might render somebody ineligible to carry a weapon,” said Phelps. “This law doesn’t give them the right to carry it If they cannot carry a weapon legally under federal law.”

Phelps says there are places that you cannot legally take a gun.

“You can’t go into bars with a weapon. You can’t go onto school premises. You can’t go into courthouses and probation offices and places like that with a weapon under this statute,” said Phelps. “Probably the most important thing to keep in mind about this new statute, and it’s always been kind of a common sense thing, is don’t carry a weapon while you’re intoxicated. That’s actually a new offense, and there are a number of fairly significant penalties for carrying a weapon while you’re intoxicated.”

Phelps says in most cases, having a gun in your car is nothing new, but you should exercise caution.

“Keep in mind that prior to September 1st and this new law coming into effect, any Texan could carry a weapon if they were legally eligible to in their vehicle. That was not an offense. You simply could not carry it in your vehicle if you are already committing an offense,” said Phelps. “If you were DWI and you had a weapon in the car, or you had marijuana in the car or other drugs that you’re not supposed to have, then they’re going to charge you with that carrying a weapon charge.”

“My advice to folks who have a weapon on them if they are stopped by a police officer is usually to probably let the police officer know because that will put that police officer at ease,” said Phelps. “They’ll probably want to know where it’s at. Police officers are always nervous when they make any kind of traffic stop, particularly at night when people start going through their glove compartments and consoles. They’re on edge. They don’t know what’s about to happen, so it’s not a bad idea to let a police officer know. I know that they’ll appreciate that.”

Phelps also says the new law has some benefits for those previously convicted before September 1, with some gun crimes.

“There’s one kind of important thing that they’ve added to the statute, which I think is something that people need to look at,” said Phelps. “This law provides that you can have that expunged from your record or wiped off your record. So if somebody has been convicted of carrying a weapon, charged with a misdemeanor, It probably is a good idea to consult a good lawyer to see if they might be eligible to have that wiped off their record.”

Kole Taylor, public information officer with the Bryan Police Department, says it’s all using common sense when carrying a firearm. He, too, says knowing the law and knowing where you can and cannot go with a gun is key.

“There are specific places that you can’t carry. It was the same rules when the handgun license was in effect. You can’t carry into churches. You can’t carry into schools or any other businesses that have the appropriate signage. Places that penal code 4603 where firearms were prohibited like sporting events at schools and bars,” said Taylor. “There’s a full list of places that you can’t carry still with this new bill.”

Taylor says since the law went into effect, the department has not noticed any changes with local gun owners.

“Honestly, we haven’t really seen a change around here. I think most of the people that we’re going to carry a handgun were already doing so legally by getting their handgun license,” said Taylor. “I think the people that were going to carry already were kind of familiar with the rules. We haven’t seen an uptick in calls for service. We haven’t had any issues.”

Taylor stresses the need for carrying your gun in a non-threatening manner.

“If you’re going to open carry in Texas, the gun has to be in a holster, whether it’d be on your hip or a shoulder holster. Outside of that, if you’re just walking around with a handgun, obviously that can cause alarm which can be a criminal offense in itself,” said Taylor. “You just have to use common sense when you’re gonna carry. Try to keep it concealed. If you’re going to carry it openly on your hip or something, you can carry it in a holster, but once it’s out of the holster and people can perceive it as a threat or that you may be causing an alarm, then you can have some criminal issues later on down the road.”

While having a gun itself is not illegal, Taylor says committing a crime while open carrying could lead to other problems.

“So there is a criminal charge called unlawful carry of a weapon. While the gun itself is not a criminal act to carry with you, there are certain crimes you can commit that can give you a weapons charge,” said Taylor. “If you get pulled over for a DWI, and you have a pistol or handgun with you, you can get a charge for unlawful carry of a weapon, same applies for drug charges, marijuana, a variety of offenses can get or land you a second charge.”

Taylor offers this advice should you possess a gun and get pulled over for a traffic stop.

“f you’re going to carry, and you get pulled over on a traffic stop, you want to be upfront and tell the officer you have a handgun in their car,” said Taylor. “I mean, most of the time, we kind of mentally are prepared to expect that everyone has a pistol, just due to our training and experience. If you’re not going to say anything, don’t make any sudden movements. If the officer asks for your license and it’s in the center console, and you know, you have a pistol or handgun in there. Obviously, you want to tell them, Hey, my driver’s license or whatever paperwork I need to give you is in here, but I have a handgun in there as well.

“It kind of gives a heads up, and they may just ask you to step out, and they’ll retrieve that license or figure out a different way to go about getting that to me,” said Taylor.

Lastly, Taylor suggests gun owners learn how to handle a firearm properly.

“If you’re going to choose to carry a handgun, make sure that you are trained in using it. Don’t go buy yourself a brand new handgun and walk around and not know what you’re doing with it because if you get confronted with a situation where you have to pull it out or use it, you want to at least be trained and know how to operate and use it effectively,” said Taylor. " In the end, you are responsible for whatever comes out of it. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you may harm somebody or an innocent bystander because you want to take action and you weren’t properly trained with your equipment.”

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