Texas is one of many states that allow citizens to carry concealed handguns and has done so since 1996; almost 20 years. In January of this year, Texans who have a Concealed Handgun License (“CHL”) will also have the right to open carry handguns. What does this mean for property owners?
There are two areas that the Texas Legislature is loath to mess with…and that is gun rights and property rights. As the legislature has given CHL licensed Texans the right to carry a handgun, they also recognize that not all businesses and/or property owners want to have people on site carrying guns. Property owners still retain the right to ask anyone to leave their property and if they don’t comply, the police can arrest or cite them for a criminal trespass offense.
The legislation allowed for a property or business owner to post signs (called 30.06 [CHL] and 30.07 [open carry] signs) at all entry points stating the property owners desire to prohibit concealed or open carry of handguns on their property. If a person violates this, they are subject to arrest for a criminal offense. The signs are not a requirement, but do give advance notice of the business or property owners desires.
Is this something that most property owners should do? What if I have tenants that want to do something different?
We are recommending that property owners take a noninterference position unless there is a good reason to do so. As for tenants, most owners are leaving it to them to determine if they want to bar handguns from their space. Unfortunately for property owners, there is no safe harbor for them to reside if something happens and it could be reasonable presumed that a person with a handgun could have prevented injury to innocents. Of course the opposite could be true if someone was injured by a licensed person with a handgun and the owner did not bar them from the property.
It seems the safest position for property owners is to stand down and not usurp the rights our Legislature and Governor decided to confer upon the citizenry. This way they can argue that they did not grant any right nor did they stand in the way of the open or concealed carry rights.
Unfortunately, the best decision will likely be decided by the courts after some tragedy occurs.