Sunday, April 19, 2015

What Hospitality Employers Need to Know About the Impending Texas Open Carry Law

Last week the Texas House passed House Bill 910 (HB 910) which allows residents with concealed handgun licenses to carry their handguns in public, provided they are holstered.  A similar measure passed the Texas Senate last month, and the two bills must be reconciled before Governor Greg Abbott can weigh in.  Under current Texas law, citizens can open carry long guns but not handguns.

In its current form, HB 910 requires amendments to no less than twelve statutes, including the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Education Code, Labor Code, Penal Code, Election Code, Family Code, Government Code, Health and Safety Code, Local Government Code, Occupations Code, and Parks and Wildlife Code.  

HB 910 legalizes the open carry of handguns (meaning in holsters) for those who, among other things: (i) are legal residents of the State of Texas for the 6-month period preceding the date of an application for an open-carry license; (ii) are at least 21 years of age; (iii) have not been convicted of a felony; (iv) are not charged with the commission of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense; (v) are not fugitives from justice; (vi) are not chemically dependent; (vii) have not been finally determined to be delinquent in the payment of state taxes or child support; and (vii) are not currently restricted under a court protective or restraining order affecting the spousal relationship, other than property.  

For hospitality employers, HB 910 has three significant impacts that will more than likely be included in the new law:

  • First, nothing in the new law will change the existing "Guns in the Parking Lot" law which allows employees with concealed handgun permits to keep their firearms in their locked vehicles in the employer's parking lot.  
  • Second, nothing in the new law will prohibit an employer from prohibiting an employee who holds a license to carry a handgun, or who lawfully possesses a firearm, from possessing the firearm on the employer's premises.  The term "premises" is defined as "a building or portion of a building," but does not include public or private driveways, streets, sidewalks, walkways, parking lots, parking garages, or other parking areas. 
  • Third, the new law amends the Penal Code to make it a violation for a license holder to carry a handgun, whether it is concealed or carried in a shoulder or belt holster, onto the premises of a business that has a permit or license issued under specific chapters of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, if the business derives 51% or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
Employers should have the option to post a specifically-worded notice prohibiting open carry on their premises, and should train their staff regarding methods of handling violators, as well as those who complain about other, open carry patrons.