by Laurianne Balkum
A new Texas law allowing individuals with a concealed handgun license to openly carry a gun in a shoulder or hip holster takes effect January 1, but many employers will find they are able to restrict the open carrying of handguns if they so desire.
The new law allows individuals to openly carry handguns in public places, but private places may prohibit handguns. Employers that are private businesses can create and enforce handbook policies that prohibit the carrying (concealed or open) of guns into their workplace.
Furthermore, regarding public employers, the law prohibits open carrying in schools, school parking lots, or locations where school events are being held; amusement parks; religious institutions; and meetings of any government entity. However, employees may continue to store firearms and ammunition in locked, privately owned vehicles in employer parking lots.
Employers with policies prohibiting employees, clients, and visitors from carrying weapons on their premises should review the requirements of Texas Penal Code Sections 30.06 and 30.07 and post the signs required by the sections. The provisions make it an offense for a licensed individual to openly carry or take a concealed handgun onto company premises, but they require that specific notices be posted at the facility. Employers could prohibit open carrying and allow concealed carrying by posting only the notice required by Section 30.07.
If an employer doesn’t own the property it uses, it would be a good idea to get permission to prohibit the carrying of weapons onto the premises from the owner of the property. The language of Sections 30.06 and 30.07 applies to property owners and entities with apparent authority to act on behalf of property owners. Arguably, employers that lease a facility have apparent authority.
Alternatively, employers may have a clause in their lease agreement that allows them to prohibit weapons (that requirement is a carryover from the old prohibition language). However, obtaining permission from the property owner certainly won’t hurt an employer’s position.
Since the new open carry law was approved, Texas has also passed Senate Bill 11, which allows concealed handguns to be carried into classrooms, dormitories, and other buildings at public and private universities. The law takes effect August 1, 2016. Private universities have the option to opt out of the law, and many schools such as Rice University and Texas Christian University have done so. Most public universities are researching and developing guidelines on how to best implement the law. The law does not allow open carrying on campuses, and students must still be 21 to receive their license to carry.
For more information on the Texas open carry law, see the May 2015 issue of Texas Employment Law Letter.