Texas Employers Wrestle with Open Carry of Handguns

Texas employers are still confused and wrestling with the laws regarding the open carry of handguns in their workplaces.  I’ve written about this before (here and here), but I understand that this issue is on the minds of many employers in the state right now.

As of January 1, 2016, Texas now allows the more than 825,000 residents who are licensed to carry a handgun to openly display the gun in a shoulder or hip holster. They may also choose to conceal the handgun and carry it with them on their bodies or in bags or purses.

The state has only banned handguns completely in the following workplaces: bars or restaurants earning more than 51% of their revenue from alcohol sales (they’ll have a sign up stating that fact), correctional facilities, high school, collegiate and professional sporting events, school grounds and school buses, polling places, courtrooms and court offices, racetracks and secure areas of airports. It is also illegal under federal law to carry handguns in federal governmental buildings, such as post offices, courthouses, the IRS office, etc.

If the required signs are visible, then hospitals, nursing homes, amusement parks, churches and private businesses like yours can prohibit the carrying of pistols onto the premises by employees and/or visitors.

Even without hanging the required signs, employers can put a written policy in their employee manual prohibiting employees from bringing handguns into the workplace. Should you do this? It depends on your beliefs about guns in general, how comfortable your employees are being around gun-toting coworkers, whether you are located in a safe area of town, whether you have other ways to keep your employees secure, whether you want to face firing a volatile employee wearing a sidearm, and how your customers will react to seeing your employees armed. Have a conversation with your employees to determine the best option for your business.

Once you have decided whether to allow your employees to carry handguns and have adopted a written policy explaining the employee rule, the next question is whether to prohibit customers, vendors and other visitors to your workplace from carrying any kind of handgun on your private property. Many large businesses have made the decision to prohibit the open-carrying of handguns in Texas, including Target, Whataburger, Torchy’s Tacos, Starbucks, Chuck E. Cheese, Chick-Fil-A and others.

If you decide to completely prohibit the carrying of any handgun, you’ll need to post two required signs in a clearly visible manner at each customer entrance:

  • the 30.06 poster (named after the applicable Texas Penal Code section and pronounced in gun-speak as the “Thirty-aught-six sign”) to prohibit concealed guns, and
  • the similarly-pronounced 30.07 sign to prohibit openly-carried handguns.

If you don’t mind customers carrying a concealed weapon (which has been going on in Texas since 1995), then you only have to post the 30.07 sign banning the visitor from openly carrying his/her weapon.

By statute, you cannot just post an 8.5×11 copy of the required sign language. To be an “effective communication” that the gun owner must obey, the posters have to feature a font that is at least 1-inch in height, in contrasting type and contain the exact language required by the statute printed in both English and Spanish. That means that each of the signs are probably going to be, at a minimum, 20-inches tall.

The owner of the business or another person acting with the owner’s authority can also orally communicate to a person carrying a handgun that it is prohibited on that premises, even if the required sign isn’t posted. This is also effective communication that the handgun possessor must obey. However, most of us are not that comfortable with that kind of confrontation, particularly with an openly-armed guest. So posting the signs is a much better idea if you choose to block handguns from your business, rather than dealing with each separate situation on a case-by-case basis.

If the 30.07 sign is clearly posted prohibiting open carry, it is a Class C misdemeanor (maximum $200 fine) for anybody to openly carry a handgun on your private property. If you approach and ask that armed customer not to openly carry, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor if that person refuses to comply with your request or leave.

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