Local law enforcement officials agree that a return to the gun-packin’ Wild West is not on the horizon, since the state’s new open carry handgun law went into effect Friday.
In the last legislative session, lawmakers passed a measure allowing individuals to obtain a license to openly carry a handgun in the same places that allow the licensed carrying of a concealed handgun.
Both Madison County Sheriff Travis Neeley and Madisonville Police Chief Herbert Gilbert agree that there really won’t be much change at all.
“You’ll see a few around town, I imagine, but I don’t think there will be that much,” Neeley said. “Everybody’s not going to show up like a Western movie.
Neeley said he didn’t see any problems with the open carry law being passed.
“Everybody got into a big hype about the concealed handgun license when it came out, but there were no major issues with that.,” he said. “I don’t see that with this new law. It’s basically the same law, but requiring a belt holster or shoulder holster.”
Gilbert doesn’t think there will be that much of a change in the city, but should problems arise, he feels he and his officers are trained enough to handle any situation.
“In the last four days (Jan. 1-4), I haven’t seen anyone that had been carrying,” he said.
Neeley also said that once reality of things set in, as with the concealed carry law, most people will just carry their weapons in their vehicles.
“Those things are heavy,” he said. “It’s like that for police officers. You carry that rig around for a while, you’re ready to get rid of it.”
Gilbert said that with the guns being seen, there may be some residents of the city that will have problems, but for the most part, it will be business as usual.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Web site, the new law states applicants for an open carry license must be at least 21 years of age (unless active duty military) and must meet federal qualifications to purchase a handgun.
Eligibility to carry can be affected by criminal history, chemical or alcohol dependency; certain types of psychological diagnoses, and protective or restraining orders.
The law also states:
•Applicants also must submit a completed application, pay required fees, complete all required training and submit required supplemental forms and materials.
•Unconcealed handguns, loaded or unloaded, must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster.
•Individuals who hold a valid CHL may continue to carry with valid existing license.
•A separate license will not be required to open carry. No additional fee will be required.
•Individuals currently licensed will not be required to attend additional training. Training curriculum for new applicants will be updated to reflect the new training requirements related to the use of restraint holsters and methods to ensure the secure carrying of openly carried handguns. The new curriculum will be required for all classes beginning Jan. 1.
Open carry is not permitted by a license holder regardless of whether the handgun is holstered:
•on the premises of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education
•on any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage or other parking area of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education; and
•by an individual who is acting as a personal protection officer under Chapter 1702, Occupations Code and is not wearing a uniform.
More information can be found at www.dps.texas.gov.