Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend
As if tornadoes and earthquakes are not enough of a challenge for those of us in North Texas real estate, we may soon have to add bullet proof vests to our everyday wardrobe. I have worn one — they are heavy!
Business owners all over North Texas are wrangling with the most dramatic overhaul of Texas’ gun laws in two decades. It could be just like the old wild west days come Jan. 1, when those who hold CHL’s, that is, Concealed Handgun Licenses, no longer have to bury their guns in pockets or purses. They can carry handguns in plain view in belt or shoulder holsters, just like the police do, Elliot Ness style.
But it’s going to be confusing where you can go with the gun on display. That’s why I’m worried many will be stolen from cars and trucks when patrons realize they cannot take the gun inside, so they’ll lock it in the car. License holders are generally allowed to carry on property owned or leased by the state or by local governments. But guns are banned at schools, courts and jails.
Government meetings can be gun-free zones, so long as proper notice is given. The same goes for hospitals, including those that are public. There are other quirks in the law — bars, polling places and sanctioned sporting events are also off-limits to firearms- booze and rowdiness do not mix well with bullets.
Businesses, on the other hand, have the right to keep guns out of their place by hanging certain “no guns” signs. That applies at restaurants, grocery stores, churches, private museums, hospitals and any property that isn’t publicly owned. Which would include a private home. Or a real estate office. Whole Foods, a Texas-based store, said no to open carry. Krogers said yes.
Kroger, Home Depot and Bass Pro Shops already allow concealed carry in Texas stores and will also allow open carry. Though they will provide their employees extra training, representatives for those businesses pointed to the experiences they’ve had in other open carry states.
“We’ve not seen any significant issues,” said Kroger spokesman Gary Huddleston.
So why did the legislature do this? Good question: it’s not all that foreign. Some form of open carry of handguns is allowed in 44 other states, though some require permits or licenses. Others restrict the times or places when open carry is allowed. Only six states (California, Florida, Illinois, New York, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.) still have outright bans.
Take that, Big Tex: the percentage of Texas citizens who own a gun — 35.9 percent — is below the national median of roughly 40 percent. And Texas voters’ opinions are openly divided on open carry, with only a minority in favor.
A joint University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll released in February showed that the majority of Texan voters — 77 percent — believe people should be able to carry handguns in public in some form. But only 32 percent support open carry, with another 45 percent in favor of allowing those with licenses to carry a concealed handgun, but not openly.
That a minority of Texans support open carries has prompted charges from some gun control advocates that that the State Legislature is being influenced by pro-gun interests.
No, really? The thing that bothers me the most about this is that law enforcement officials don’t support the law. When they arrive to the scene of a crime, how are they going to distinguish the nutcase with a gun from the cool-headed CHL holder who is just trying to help? At the very least, CHL education in this state should teach how to react when law enforcement arrives to help, not hinder.
Otherwise, it is going to be the wild west out there. How do you deal with guns and real estate clients? Do you have (or will you get) a CHL to pack heat at open houses? Does St. Johns design bullet-proof vests?