Few changes noticed since open carry laws changed Jan. 1

Jacklyn York

911 Caller: “Oh my God, that was really close…!

”Dispatcher: ”OK”

Gunfire….Gunfire

Dispatcher: “What’s your name, ma’am?”

911 Caller: “I’m Patti.”

This was an actual 911 call made by Patti Nielson from the library during the Columbine School shooting. In the seconds following, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed the library she was in and demanded that “Everybody get up!” before shooting students inside on April 20, 1999. On this day, 13 people died and 23 suffered from gun shot wounds, before the two shooters turned the guns on themselves inside the library.

Despite this incident and others, Texas last year made it even easier to carry a weapon. 

Thirty states in the U.S already allowed open carry without a permit or license, while 14 more states allowed open carry with a license. Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, California and South Carolina have kept it illegal to open carry.

Nationwide Status of Handgun Open Carry SOURCE; opencarry.org
Nationwide Status of Handgun Open Carry
SOURCE; opencarry.org

According to Active Response Training,  44 of 64 recorded cases by the FBI, the shooting’s last less than five minutes and ended before authorities arrived to the scene.  These statistics keep self-defense a hot topic for licensed gun carriers.

 In Texas, January 2016 marked the day of transition from Concealed Handgun Licensing to Handgun Licensing Program, more widely know as “open carry.” Now, licensed carriers may visibly display their holstered handgun in designated places. Government buildings remain illegal as well as businesses that make 51 percent or more of revenue from “on-site consumption” of alcohol sales.

Dennis Taylor, NRA training certified instructor at Wichita Shooters Academy has taught six different firearm disciplines for more than 30 years. He began as an instructor during his service in the Navy but has spent the last six hosting courses from a shop behind his home. To accommodate the firing section of the course, he has built a deep firing range on-site. Seven-inch thick railroad ties line the length as well as hay bales stacked to the ceiling and three bails deep, behind the target area.

Taylor said he has not seen a significant difference in enrollment since the laws were changed in January.

“We [he and fellow instructor and wife, Rita] don’t do this for a living so in the past six years, we’ve had a course each month. Sometimes two on rare occasions if somebody says ‘Hey, I have a big group and going to need you.’ Our classes can be as many as 20 but I like the smaller classes the best,”

During his time as an instructor, Taylor said he has not often observed an attitude of aggressiveness when students enroll in his course.

“… most never want to have to use it [handgun] but want to be ready if they do. I can make an instructor’s note to attach with their test if I do observe aggressive behavior. There are always the rare bad apples but for the most part…I think…those willing to go through the course, test and application are upstanding citizens.”

Taylor noted that since September of 2013, the law has changed and only requires a minimum of four hours and maximum of six, with firing time. Once the course portion is completed and test passed, an application will be submitted for review by the state and FBI that can take between three to five weeks for a response. An application can be denied for reasons like owing back child support, felony convictions and state mental health facilities.

Police Response 

Brandie Young, public information officer in Wichita Falls Police Department, said there has been few changes in the community.

“There is no tactile advantage when open carrying and I think a lot of the licensed carriers are realizing that.”

Young said the way WFPD has responded to the law passing, is by training dispatchers and officers on how the new laws are written so they can better serve the community.

“As a police officer, we have the right if we see anybody open carry, we can ask to see their license. That is a very good part of the law that passed, if they refuse to give it to us then they are in violation of that licensing and can lose it.”

Young went on to say that routine traffic stops are treated the same way, “…if they have a license to carry, they have to submit that to us along with their driver’s license.”

 Young said business owners are able to use their own discretion as well. Using an example of Wal-Mart, she said any business can give written or verbal notice. Written notice would include the appropriate signage but even then business owners, if feeling uneasy about a specific situation, can ask even licensed carriers to leave. 

Walmart stores lead in U.S. gun sales and in Texas managers have been required to ask open carrying shoppers for correct documentation for their handgun. Door greeters and cashiers, alike, are told to notify a manager if they see a visible firearm so that the manager can ask for the shopper’s license to carry. Wal-Mart stores decided not to comment.

Campus Carry

It will be legal as of August 1 to conceal carry on college campuses in Texas. The school’s implementation included a committee agreeing on “zones” that would be off-limits to carry.

On campus, Matthew Watson, instructor of biology, said, “I feel troubled about campus carry,” 

Having been raised around guns as a kid, he said “I question the psychology of a person carrying an assault rifle into McDonald’s. I will leave and take my kids with me. I don’t know if its loaded but why carry if it’s not? The holstered handguns designed for open carry, display a safer and more responsible way to carry.”

Watson agreed with Young and Taylor that open carry makes the carrier a target in the event that a shooter attacks. 

Katy Steinel, junior in biology, said, “I’m indifferent about open carry and campus carry both. We’re fools to believe that people don’t already do it and I plan to get my license to carry once I’m 21. I will feel more safe then.”

Lisa Diemer, senior of environmental science nodded as she said, “There are good and bad people. The law doesn’t change anything. It’s about choices.”

Background checks

Ryan Powell, hunting and fishing manager at Academy Sports and Outdoors said, “We saw an increase in inquires around October but little change since the new open carry laws. Our handgun sales are steady. If anything they may even show to be down.”

Powell said when a shopper wants to purchase a firearm, the shopper has to submit an application to be screened through NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This screen will give a response checking for the same information as Taylor described and can take minutes or up to three business days. After three days, the purchase can be made even without a response from the FBI. There is no federal law requiring that third-party sellers run a background check when buying a firearm. Once the person is approved, the information is stored in records at Academy for at least 20 years and only a manager can retrieve it.

A few reasons a person can be denied by the NICS system include: 

  • A person illegally or unlawfully in the United States.
  • A person that has been a patient of a mental health facility.
  • Has received a dishonorable discharge from the Armed Forces.
  • Has a domestic violence conviction.
  • Has a restraining order by the court for a partner, or child of the partner.
  • Has renounced U.S. citizenship.

SOURCE: Open Carry Texas

Powell said to purchase a long gun the criteria is having a valid and correct, government issued ID and pass the screening. For a handgun, a person must meet the same criteria as well as be a Texas resident.

MORE INFORMATION: Open Carry Laws