Open carry in Texas began not with a bang, but a whimper.
The new, and somewhat controversial law allowing licensed gun owners to carry their firearms openly in public took effect Jan. 1. Predictions that the law would cause panic or even put the public in danger have, so far, proven to be off-target.
“We do not have anything interesting to report,” Cpl. Tracey Knight of the Fort Worth Police Department said to a local newspaper, the Star-Telegram. “Two calls so far, no issues. We have no concerns and we have had no problems.”
Critics believed a public unaccustomed to seeing guns carried openly would call police out of fear. But no such complaints were filed in January in Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is the county seat.
“I said before this became law that I thought it was going to be much ado about nothing but I didn’t know it was going to be this much nothing,”
- Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson
“I said before this became law that I thought it was going to be much ado about nothing but I didn’t know it was going to be this much nothing,” Tarrant Sheriff Dee Anderson told the Star-Telegram.
Other counties in the Lone Star State have reported few, if any, complaints related to the law in the first month of 2016.
In Bastrop County, despite anticipation that there would be a flood of 911 calls, none were logged the first weekend that the law went into effect.
Contrary to widespread perception, Texas' gun laws have long been among the strictest in the nation. Carrying handguns was first restricted by local legislature in 1871. In 1995, the law was changed to allow for concealed carry permits. The new, open-carry law was passed last year.
According to figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety, only 3.4 percent of the state’s 27 million residents have any sort of license to carry a firearm. While the new law allows licensed owners to openly display their weapons, it also allows private businesses to implement their own bans.
Many privately owned businesses across the state have implemented their own ban in the New Year as well as national chains, including Starbucks, Jack in The Box, and Chipotle. As required by law, the businesses must post separate signs for their bans on both open and concealed carry.
Other businesses see no issue and will allow customers to open carry, including The Home Depot and Bass Pro Shops.
Law enforcement authorities are not enthusiastic about the law. A recent survey by the Texas Police Chief’s Association found that 75 per cent of police chiefs in the state oppose the law. But those polled also agreed overwhelmingly that licenses should be required and that handguns should be holstered. Texas is among 15 states that require a permit.
“We have concerns,” James McLaughlin, executive director of the police chiefs association, said to the Dallas Morning News. “And hopefully some of those concerns can be addressed.”