On Jan. 1, Texas will allow licensed firearm owners to openly carry their handguns in most places.
A law signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in early 2015 will allow Texans open carry. The new law, House Bill 910 will allow registered and licensed gun owners to carry handguns openly in a belt or shoulder holsters.
A local businessman who sells weapons on a daily basis does not feel comfortable with the idea of people walking around with exposed guns.
“Just because the law says open carry doesn't mean that you can't conceal the handgun,” said a local businessman who wished to stay anonymous. “I personally don't like this new law.”
Under the new law some businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone who has a weapon.
“Anyone carrying a weapon under this new law needs to read signs on businesses to determine whether they can enter the establishment,” said Alice Police Chief Rex Ramon.
Under the law, guns will still typically be banned in some places, such as courthouses, sporting events and businesses that get 51 percent or more of their profits from onsite consumption of alcohol such as bars.
Law enforcement officials do not believe that the open carry law will decrease the number of crimes.
“I think that if you're showing your gun you'll be the first target (for criminals),” local businessman stated. “For example, if criminals walk in to a business and can count how many guns are there, they're more likely to take those people out first then do whatever they want to do.”
The Texas Attorney General issued opinions that do not provide specific instructions on how to implement these prohibitions, especially related to the definition of “premises.”
“You've never had a law like this,” said Jim Wells County Sheriff Oscar Lopez. “We've never had to enforce such a law.”
Until further notice, there will be no changes to current policies regarding the carrying of handguns on Jim Wells, Duval and Nueces County premises. The counties will continue to evaluate the issues involved and will apply the law to observe the rights of handgun license holders while also providing for the safety of the community as intended by the law.
“We anticipate more calls than usual about people with guns,” Ramon said. “Each call, each situation will be handled individually.”
Alice police and JWC deputies have been trained and briefed on the new open carry law.
“We are going to play it by ear,” Lopez said. “If we all work together on this new law and follow the policies and procedures, hopefully, there won't be any trouble.”
Anyone who wishes to obtain a handgun license must apply with a qualified handgun instructor to take an appropriate course in handgun proficiency and demonstrate handgun proficiency.
Anyone who plans on carrying weapons should have their handgun license with them at all times, according to law enforcement officials.