With the new open carry law coming into effect in Texas in two weeks, the nation’s ninth largest city is getting the word out as to what will and will not be acceptable.
Since the after the Civil War, it has been illegal for Texans to carry modern handguns outside of their home, which was only modified in 1995 when the state adopted a concealed carry statute. This left lawful gun owners in the state who wanted to open carry the option of either arming themselves with a primitive black-powder handgun or a long arm such as a rifle or shotgun.
Now, with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature on House Bill 910 earlier this year, individuals licensed to carry a handgun will be able do so openly in public effective on Jan. 1, 2016.
Dallas, with a population of over 1.2 million, has set up a website for the public as well as taken steps to ensure the city is ready for the reform.
“The City of Dallas is training 311 and 911 calltakers on the new laws and regulations to ensure they are able to answer concerned citizen’s questions,” reads a statement from the city. “Dallas Police Department has trained all officers on the new laws so they are aware of what is legal and what is a violation under the new open carry law.”
As outlined by a video on the site, citizens are asked to be tolerant of law-abiding gun owners and only urged to contact authorities if a person open carrying removes a gun from a holster, seems intoxicated, or is obviously committing a crime.
Additionally, city officials warn that handguns are not allowed at Dallas City Hall during polling and governmental meetings or at high school, collegiate or professional sporting events or interscholastic events at the Dallas Convention Center and the Cotton Bowl.
While the majority of states – 45 – allow for some form of open carry, Texas was among the most populous to include California, Florida, New York and Illinois that did not. The Lone Star State’s nearly 27 million residents swamp the next largest open carry state, Pennsylvania, by a factor of over two-to-one. With this in mind, Dallas area lawmakers originally sought an exemption for the city as well as for Houston, San Antonio and Austin from the expanded carry rights measure.
Urban lawmakers argued the four metro areas, ranked among the dozen largest cities in the nation by population, should be treated differently.
“Rural open carry is different than densely populated open carry,” said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who proposed the amendment at the time. “If you put this to a vote in big cities, I think people are going to say resoundingly no.”
Bill sponsors did not concur and the opt-out proposal was dropped.
Open carry advocates who fought a long and at times controversial battle to obtain passage for the right welcomed news of the efforts Dallas has put forward to embrace the new law and educate the public, especially when it comes to the prospect of “swatting” by anti-gun advocates.
“It is refreshing to see that the City of Dallas is already addressing the fact that the gun control crowd will be using the 911 system to harass law abiding gun owners,” CJ Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas, told Guns.com on Thursday.
However, Grisham pointed out that there have been a couple of early hiccups in getting the word out.
“Unfortunately, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system hasn’t gotten the memo. They sent an internal email to employees telling them to halt transportation until law enforcement arrives of a citizen with an openly carried, holstered and ‘checks them out,” Grisham said.
Since then, DART has quickly backpedaled to clarify the internal memo was mistaken and the transit group’s policy is that police will only be called if DART employees believe an open carrier is committing a crime.
“It’s not supposed to be every time,” said DART spokesman Mark Ball.