Texas Businesses Wrestle with Presence of Handguns

Texas businesses have to wrestle with the laws regarding the carrying of handguns by employees and customers in their workplaces.  I’m amazed at how many businesses I counsel who haven’t even thought about the issue in a state where there are millions of guns. I’ve written about this before (here and here), but there is still confusion about a private business’s rights and responsibilities regarding guns in Texas.

As of January 1, 2016, Texas allowed the more than 825,000 residents of the state who are licensed to carry a handgun to openly display the gun in a shoulder or hip holster. Texans may also choose to conceal the handgun and carry it with them on their bodies or in bags or purses. Texas also has reciprocity agreements to allow visitors licensed in many other states to carry guns here.

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, federal courthouses, the IRS office, Social Security office, etc.

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, but you have do this proactively. Texas law does not make it illegal to carry a handgun into these premises unless the handgun owner has been notified that he/she cannot carry at that place.

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? Separating out the politics of that question, it depends on

  • your beliefs about guns in general,
  • how comfortable your employees are being around gun-toting coworkers,
  • whether you believe your business is located in a safe area of town,
  • whether your employees face real dangers in their job that a handgun could minimize,
  • whether you have other ways to keep your employees secure (such as evacuation drills, good lighting, security guards, secured entrances, alarms, etc.)
  • whether your employees are well-trained in the safety and use of a handgun (the required 4-hour Texas licensing course is not adequate for this purpose),
  • whether you want to face disciplining and/or firing a volatile employee wearing a sidearm,
  • whether you are covered by special insurance for handgun liability if there is an accidental discharge of a weapon (your general liability policy probably won’t cover it),
  • whether you are prepared for the lawsuits that may follow a shooting (there is no immunity in the open carry statute for an employer when an employee hurts someone with his weapon), and
  • how your customers will react to seeing your employees armed.

If you can’t decide, have a conversation with your employees to determine the best option for your business and do some objective research for yourself about whether the scenario of a “good guy with a gun” protecting people in your workplace is a real possibility or a myth.

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 by guests on your property, 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″x 11″ copy of the required sign language or a simple symbol of a gun with an “x” marked through it. The Texas legislature in 2015 voted to make the required posters as large, unattractive and awkward as possible. 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 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 by removing the handgun from the premises.

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