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Texas Businesses Adapt To Open-Carry Law

Activists held an open carry rally at the Texas state capitol on Jan. 1, 2016 in Austin, Texas.
Erich Schlegel
Getty Images
Activists held an open carry rally at the Texas state capitol on Jan. 1, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

The celebrations for the new year also marked a new open-carry gun law taking effect in Texas. Handgun license holders in Texas will now be allowed to carry their guns in visible holsters on their hip or shoulder.

Previously, Texans wanting to carry a handgun had to obtain a concealed handgun license and conceal their weapon. With the new law, the more than 826,000 state license holders will be allowed to openly display their handguns in most public places.

However, the law allows private businesses to ban guns if they choose. And some business owners are concerned about the implications of having openly armed customers.

Dallas restaurant owner Jack Perkins is a gun rights supporter, but he says visible weapons may be bad for business.

"There's a large amount of the population that guns scare them," Perkins says. "If there are three or four people in the restaurant all carrying guns then you're going to be uncomfortable. And I'd just rather people not be uncomfortable."

Jack Perkins is a Texas restaurant owner who plans to prohibit open carry in his businesses.
Jeff Amador / Courtesy Of Jack Perkins
Courtesy Of Jack Perkins
Jack Perkins is a Texas restaurant owner who plans to prohibit open carry in his businesses.

Perkins owns Dallas-based The Slow Bone, a barbecue spot, and Maple & Motor, which specializes in burgers. He says his weapon of choice is a Glock 43, and he frequently carries it in his front pocket. He doesn't object to customers bringing concealed weapons into his restaurants.

"Carrying a concealed weapon is all about eventualities — things that might happen, and protection in that case," he says. "There's a lot of cash in my business. I have employees too. Restaurants get robbed, businesses get robbed, and I have employees that I would like to protect."

But Perkins makes the distinction between carrying a gun underneath clothing and carrying it in the open.

"Carrying a gun outside, on your person where it's visible, is at least an implied threat," he says. "If deadly force is your final threat, you're making it right away, visibly. ... I just really don't want that kind of threat feeling in either of the restaurants."

The number of people with handgun permits makes up only about 4 percent of Texas' population of more than 27 million. Out of these, Perkins thinks the number of people who want to openly carry weapons is pretty small.

But open-carry advocates have been a very vocal minority in the past. In 2014, young men showed up at fast food restaurants around Texas carrying tactical long rifles in protest. Groups in Fort Worth have staged weekly walks carrying weapons like the AR-15 and AK-47.

In response, chains including Starbucks, Jack In The Box, Chili's, Sonic and Chipotle have asked customers to leave weapons at home.

If private businesses want to prevent people from bringing weapons inside, they are required by the law to display a sign with 1-inch block lettering. Separate signs are required for banning open carry and concealed carry. Perkins says he plans to put one up, but he doesn't foresee it causing any issues.

"I don't think it's going to be a problem for us," Perkins says. "I don't think we're going to have confrontations."

Perkins is one of the large majority — 85 percent according to one study — of gun owners who support requiring background checks for all gun sales. He thinks laws like this exist because the gun lobby "wants to push its agenda as far as it can just in case it gets pushed back." He says gun opponents do the same thing.

President Obama is preparing to take executive action on gun control, after an effort to get legislation through Congress failed three years ago following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

"I believe completely in responsible gun ownership, and I believe completely in a dialogue that gets us to that point without rhetoric and venom," Perkins says.

"There's nothing in the Constitution, especially in the Second Amendment, that says we can't be smart about this. I'm all for an open dialogue. I think if we check backgrounds, if we sell guns to people who are going to operate them responsibly and own them responsibly, I just don't understand why we can't think about it more than just feel about it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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