Over 826,000 Texans have a license that allows them to carry a handgun with them in public. Until the beginning of 2016, you might never have noticed if an employee or customer had come into your place of business while carrying because their guns had to be concealed. Now the law has changed, and licensed gun owners are allowed to openly carry their weapons in visible holsters on their hip or shoulder. This change in law has forced Texas business owners to make a tough choice — should they allow open carry in their place of business? Or only allow concealed carry? Or ban all guns?
At the Kumar Law Firm we are helping several businesses in the Austin area work through this issue. Figuring out what your gun policy is going to be is an important decision because it may end up impacting your bottom line. Folks on both sides of the debate over the proper role of guns in society are very passionate, and have committed to boycotting businesses that disagree with their philosophy. Businesses that ban guns are being boycotted by pro-gun advocates, while businesses that allow guns on their premises are being boycotted by anti-gun advocates.
If a business wants to allow patrons and employees to carry, it probably doesn’t need to do anything. Unless the place of business is in a zone where guns are prohibited by law, at a school for example, open and concealed carry are legal by default.
If a business wants to prohibit guns, it must post proper signage.
• Separate signs are required for banning open carry and concealed carry so businesses can allow concealed carry but not open carry, or vice-versa.
• Signs must have 1-inch block lettering.
• Signs must be written in both English and Spanish.
• Signs must be posted at all entrances. Posting signs only at the main entrance is insufficient.
Business owners who allow open carry still have complete control over their premises. So, if a customer enters and begins to act suspiciously, the business owner still has the right to ask that person to leave, whether or not he or she is open carrying. If a customer refuses to comply with a request to leave, the police can be called.
In addition to considering what the customer may think about open and concealed carry, business owners must also consider how they and their employees feel about the issue. Business owners are allowed to set separate rules for employees and customers, and should not hesitate to do so if it is in their business interest.
If you have questions about how to handle open carry in your business, consult with a competent, informed business attorney.