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As Confusion Remains Across Houston, Texas Open Carry Gun Law Begins

Concealed Handgun License (CHL) holders can carry their weapons — loaded or unloaded — in a shoulder or belt holster out in public. Read below for more information about the new law, including some key exceptions.



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A new law takes effect on January 1st that allows concealed handgun license holders in Greater Houston and across Texas to openly carry their weapons in a holster.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland says he's expecting lots of calls from concerned citizens as gun owners begin wearing their weapons out in public.

"You're going to see people with guns now in places you've never seen them before," McClelland says. "You know, in your grocery store, Walmart, Academy."

The chief says implementation of the open carry law will be a learning process for the public and law enforcement. He says officers have undergone special training on the rules for enforcing the new law, and they will respond to all calls about suspicious behavior.

"Certainly our dispatcher's got to get as much information as they can to try to obtain whether the person is lawfully carrying," McClelland says. "What is the behavior? What are they doing besides just openly carrying?"

Business owners do have the option to prohibit guns on their property. McClelland says they need to post two separate signs: one to ban open carry, and another to ban concealed handguns.

But if recent public meetings are any indication, residents and business owners across Greater Houston still have many questions about the new open carry law.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls walked through some of the rules at a recent information session. But he says the language of the law is vague. For example, it doesn't limit the number of weapons you can carry.

"The issue for law enforcement is this," Nehls says. "When the law was passed in Austin, it doesn't even answer the question of how many you can carry."

The sheriff says that law enforcement agencies are relaying those concerns to state legislators and are hoping for some clarification.

Below are more details about the law from the Texas Department of Public Safety:

Summary of new laws passed in the 84th Regular Legislative Session that impact Handgun Licensing.

Open Carry

Effective: January 1, 2016

Caption: Relating to the authority of a person who is licensed to carry a handgun to openly carry a holstered handgun; creating criminal offense.

General information:

  • Authorizes individuals to obtain a license to openly carry a handgun in the same places that allow the licensed carrying of a concealed handgun with some exceptions. (See "Exceptions" below for more information.)
  • Unconcealed handguns, loaded or unloaded, must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster.
  • Individuals who hold a valid CHL may continue to carry with valid existing license.
  • A separate license will not be required to open carry. No additional fee will be required.
  • Individuals currently licensed will not be required to attend additional training. Training curriculum for new applicants will be updated to reflect the new training requirements related to the use of restraint holsters and methods to ensure the secure carrying of openly carried handguns. The new curriculum will be required for all classes beginning January 1, 2016.
  • The eligibility criteria to obtain a license to carry do not change.
  • The department has updated the website and training materials to reference License to Carry (LTC) instead of Concealed Handgun License (CHL).
  • Changes to the laminated license have been implemented. For examples of licenses currently in circulation, see: LTC sample.


  • Information regarding signage is available in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) found on the department's website at: FAQs


  • Open carry is not permitted by a license holder regardless of whether the handgun is holstered:
    • on the premises of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education
    • on any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage or other parking area of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education
    • by an individual who is acting as a personal protection officer under Chapter 1702, Occupations Code and is not wearing a uniform