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Local law enforcement prepares for open carry gun law

By S. Barot
For The Star

2000px-Texas_flag_map.svgStarting Jan. 1, licensed gun owners in Texas will be able to openly and publicly carry guns in belts or shoulder holsters. Also known as “open carry,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 910 into law in June. Texas is now the 45th state to pass legislation relating to open carry gun practices.

This controversial and heavily debated piece of legislation has citizens on edge about guns at business and government establishments. And local law enforcement agencies are doing what they can to ensure the public is well informed of the new legislation.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department is educating the public on open carry practices. They held a public informational session on the new law at the Gus George Law Enforcement Academy.

Public Information Officer Bob Haenel said the department’s target audience included business owners and supervisors who manage businesses where licensed carriers could potentially enter with a gun.

Sugar Land Police Chief Doug Brinkley said city employees are well aware of the new legislation and know what to expect on Jan. 1. The city is also preparing to share information with the general public.

Brinkley added that his department will disseminate information online for the general public on the City’s website and Facebook page. The information will highlight the open carry law and what citizens should expect.

Sugar Land recently approved Resolution 15-38, which now prohibits handguns into meeting rooms during open meetings. The City has limited authority to prohibit a licensed firearms owner from carrying handguns into facilities that are accessible by the general public.

The open carry law comes after years of pro-gun groups arguing that their Second Amendment rights are being violated. Some also claim that potential attackers will be less willing to engage in gunfire with open carry opposition. Opponents of the open carry gun law say that business patrons will feel intimidated by open carried guns and may avoid businesses where guns are allowed.

Through publicly issued statements, businesses like Chipotle, Whataburger, Panera Bread, Starbucks and Target have asked patrons to refrain from bringing guns to their establishments.

There are still gun-free zones in Texas including schools, sporting events, hospitals, places of worship, bars, polling places and airports. But not all places are gun-free zones. There is a solution for banning open carry or concealed firearms – signage.

The Texas Penal Code Section 30.06 sign bans concealed carry firearms and the 30.07 sign bans open carry firearms. For those government agencies and businesses that do not permit either, both signs must be posted – in English and Spanish.

Each of the notices must appear in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch high, and be clearly visible to the public.

While private businesses have the option to ban firearms from their premises completely, government agencies have more complex regulations – and could potentially face heavy fines.

Texas Senate Bill 273 contains regulations regarding the posting of notices regarding the carrying of handguns. According to S.B. 273, if a government entity posts a sign banning firearms in places where it is legal for open carry gun owners to be armed, there can be a fine of up to $1500 for the first infraction and up to $10,500 for subsequent infractions.

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