San Angelo Prepares for Open Carry Gun Law
Come Jan. 1, 2016, the controversial new open carry gun law will take effect, and San Angelo Police and other agencies are preparing for what's to come. In fact, Chief Tim Vasquez of the San Angelo Police Department said there are a few things people need to know in regards to the law that takes effect in just two weeks.
The Stipulations of Open and Carry
First, individuals who currently hold a valid license to carry a concealed gun do not have to attend extra training, nor will they need a separate license. They may continue to carry while the license is valid. However, those wishing to obtain or renew their license after the first of the year will have to complete updated training. Reference material will be provided on the Texas Department of Public Safety website, and the eligibility requirements to obtain a license to carry will not change. State law allows residents 21 and older, as well as those on active military duty, to obtain a license after undergoing a background check, taking classes and passing written and hands-on tests.
Additionally, those individuals who choose to open carry can only carry handguns, loaded or unloaded, in a shoulder or belt holster.
Chief Vasquez said there will probably be some confusion with these details in the beginning.
“We are expecting, for sure, more calls for service. I suspect that initially people who have concealed handgun permits will be carrying their firearms, and how long that lives, I don’t know. Also, it is going to take quite a bit of time for our systems to get used to seeing that around. I don’t think we will see any increase in crime level, but I do think we will see an increase in work load,” said Vasquez.
Vasquez also said that his department will follow protocol that requires a permit.
“Legislatures left the unlawful carry law in place; and in that particular law, it says that it is unlawful for anyone to carry a weapon, a gun, a pistol specifically, unless they have a permit," Vasquez explained.
That means SAPD officers will be checking for permits, but if that is the only reason they have stopped someone, they will release them once they do a verification.”
Therefore, people who are carrying openly must keep a permit on them at all times so the citizen can present it to law enforcement upon request.
“What we have done is we have created a policy and sent out some guidelines to the officers in regards to how to handle these situations, and it’s pretty clear to them that’s how we will do it," Vasquez explained. "Unless there is any other reason to be detaining the person, we will identify them and make sure they have a permit. They will be released unless we have any reason to suspect that any other crime is occurring.”
Open Carry and Higher Education
Although people can carry openly in most places, open carry and concealed carry will not be permitted on the premises of an institution of higher education or private/independent institution of higher education. This includes any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage or other parking areas of that institution.
However, law of concealed carry on campuses changes Aug. 1, 2016, and will soon allow the authorization of concealed carry with a valid license on the premises of institutions of higher education in the state of Texas. Open carry, on the other hand, will not be allowed.
Additionally, the institution of higher education will be allowed to establish its own rules and regulations on the subject of concealed carry of handguns by licensed holders on campus or specific areas located on the campus. Officials may also choose to post that they will not allow concealed carry on campus.This law will go into effect on large Texas campuses Aug. 1, 2016, and then for public junior colleges on Aug. 1, 2017.
Jamie Highsmith, public information officer for the San Angelo ISD, said this new law required the district to specifically prohibit firearms on it campuses.
Highsmith explained, “DH Local, an Employee Standards of Conduct policy, covers a variety of expectations for all employees such as tobacco and e-cigarette use, use of electronic media, professional attire, and, now, weapons prohibitions. The added language approved [at the San Angelo ISD Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month] regarding prohibited weapons reads, ‘The District prohibits the use, possession, or display of any firearm, illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon, as defined at FNCG, on District property at all times.’ The language also included ‘Exceptions’ which reads ‘No violation of this policy occurs when the use, possession, or display of an otherwise prohibited weapon takes place as part of a District-approved activity supervised by proper authorities.’ Again, this applies to employees.”
This regulation also includes a prohibition of firearms on any grounds or building where a school-sponsored activity takes place as well as the district-owned premises.
"This added language provides policy support for the employee handbook, which already indicated employees could not bring firearms, illegal knives, clubs, or other prohibited weapons onto school grounds based on GKA and FNCG,” she said.
Matt Kimball, assistant superintendent of Human Resources and Professional Development of San Angelo ISD, stated, “Nothing has changed from a legal standpoint. We understand that families will walk their children to school and open carry and we are educating our teachers and staff on how to approach this. All the San Angelo ISD schools have resource officers on all campuses to utilize if needed.”
Other Things to Know
Overall, there is no waiting period to buy a firearm in Texas, nor is there a state firearm registry. This applies to both handguns and long arms. In order to purchase a firearm in Texas, people must present a state-issued ID, and in most cases, they will need to buy from an individual or business with a federal firearms license (FFL) permit. Most FFL holders in Texas will not sell directly to people from out-of-state due to legal concerns, but many businesses will coordinate and ship firearms to other FFL holders nationwide.
It remains legal for individuals to handle gun transfers among themselves on a casual basis provided three conditions are met:
- The recipient must be 18 years of age or older.
- The recipient must not be intoxicated.
- The recipient must not intend to commit a crime with the weapon.
Texans are also authorized to carry a loaded shotgun or rifle within easy reach within their vehicles. Handguns are also accessible, but only if they are concealed from view and people have a concealed handgun license.
Anyone wishing to possess a concealed carry permit must obtain the necessary materials from either an FFL-licensed gun dealer or from the Texas Department of Public Safety. A $140.00 processing fee must accompany the completed application. Once the application has been received, the Department of Public Safety has 60 days to either approve or deny it. Possible reasons for denial can include felonies on the applicant’s record or a history of mental instability. A permit applicant must notify the Department of Public Safety within 30 days of changing his or her name or address if the change occurs during the application process.
Once the application has been approved, people must complete a classroom and firing range course in handgun proficiency before a permit gets issued. Upon successful completion of this course, gun owners will receive a certificate necessary to successfully obtain a concealed carry permit.
In addition, a concealed carry permit expires on the holder’s first birthday after having the license for four years. At this time, the concealed handgun license must be renewed or the license holder must stop carrying a concealed handgun.
Even if someone obtains a concealed handgun license, this permit does not allow the right to carry a weapon anywhere. It does not authorize citizens to carry a firearm into a court of law, a business that derives 51% or more of its income from alcohol, a school or school-sponsored sporting event, a hospital, a place of worship, an election polling place, a racetrack, or a correctional institution. A permit holder may also not carry a weapon while intoxicated.
To further review this law and other Texas state laws, please visit: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/legal/newlegislation.htm. Also, for Frequently Asked Questions about the Open Carry Gun law in Texas, please visit http://www.opencarrytexas.org/faq.html. To view the San Angelo ISD Employee Handbook, please visit: http://www.saisd.org/Employment/EmployeeHandbook.asp. Finally, click here for the online Texas concealed handgun licensing application page.