With the passage of House Bill 910, individuals who hold a concealed handgun license (CHL) are now authorized by the State of Texas to openly carry their handgun.  However, there has been a lot of confusion of exactly what this law entails.  As a gun holder, it is important to know your rights before you open carry in public.  The State laws relating to License to Carry (LTC) are found in the TX. Govt. Code § 411.171 – 411.209 / Texas Penal Code § 46.035

Open carry and concealed carry

Although you do not have to conceal your handgun anymore generally, you do need the handgun secured in a hip or shoulder holster to follow the law. You also will not be allowed to open carry on college or university campuses.  Now that institutions of higher education do allow a LTC holder to carry a handgun on campus, the handgun must be concealed.

Prohibited places, Private Business, Colleges, and Universities

All areas which were previously considered gun-free zones will remain gun-free.  You also cannot carry everywhere.  Businesses are still allowed to choose whether they wish to ban guns, but they must post the visible 30.06 signs properly to warn LTC holders.  However, an LTC holder may now carry on universities or colleges campuses with some exceptions that can be instituted by the college or university under the Texas Government Code § 411.2031(d) (d-1) (e).  One must be familiar with any specific prohibitions an education facility has before carrying a weapon on their campus.  The law does state however that an institution of higher education like a university or college campus cannot place a general ban on concealed weapons by an LTC holder.

ARRESTED AT THE AIRPORT BECAUSE YOU FORGOT TO REMOVE YOUR HANDGUN?

If you have gone thru the time and effort to obtain your License to Carry, you don’t want to throw it all away by making a mistake.  You must be extremely careful when you carry.  The State of Texas feels like you are just that type of person or you would have never been issued the LTC in the first place.  But I have been hired by many LTC holders who have let their guards down and inadvertently carried their handgun in a place where it is prohibited like the airport.

I have now represented approximately 50 different people, both LTC holders and non-LTC holders who have been arrested at DFW International Airport and Dallas Love Field for having a gun when they attempted to pass through the screening at the airport.  The law states that a person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm or prohibited weapon in or into a secured area of an airport.

How does this happen?  Well, two things are almost always present when a person is arrested with a handgun at the airport.  They are frequent airline travelers and they are comfortable with firearms.  Comfort and familiarity with the screening process of travel lead to complacency and comfort with firearms leads to complacency.  When you get complacent with a firearm you may not secure it as safe as you once did.  When you get complacent with travel you may not check your bags and carry-ons as close as you once did.  You do not see the warning signs posted because you travel so frequently it is simply background clutter intended for those who don’t travel that often.  You travel all the time, and that’s when it happens.  You forget or simply didn’t know that backpack you or your wife packed in a hurry for the business trip contained a handgun in a side pocket.  It happens all the time, it was nothing more than an accident but now you find yourself facing felony charges.

The good news for you is that accidents are still accidents. It’s a crime if you intentionally or knowingly brought the weapon thru security or if the state can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that your actions by bringing the weapon thru security were so reckless you should be held criminally responsible.  I have yet to be hired in a case where security believed my client intentionally or knowingly tried to bring a weapon into the secured area of the airport.  Airport security simply arrests you because you did bring the weapon into the secured area.  Reckless vs. Accident is a fine line, but one your lawyer should know how to handle. Reckless is the necessary mental state that must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt before you can be found guilty.  Reckless is defined in the Texas Penal Code § 6.03 (c): A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist, or the result will occur.  The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.

For LTC holders, the good news is that in 2015 the Texas legislature amended the law so if you are found with a concealed handgun at the security checkpoint and you leave the secured area after being asked to do so, you will not be arrested.  However, without an LTC, you do not have this defense.  The officer will not give you the chance to leave the prohibited area before he makes an arrest.

Jurisdiction in the Dallas & Fort Worth area:

If you are arrested at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, your case will be sent to the Tarrant County District Attorney for prosecution.  If you are arrested at the Dallas Love Field Airport your case will be sent to the Dallas District Attorney’s office for prosecution.  These prosecutors can dismiss these charges in the interest of justice and it is of paramount importance that you have an attorney who will represent you immediately to obtain the best possible resolution.  The goal for me representing every client who I believe has accidentally gone into a prohibited area with a firearm is a dismissal of charges or a No-bill by the Grand Jury.  You need an attorney who has special knowledge of firearms and a familiarity with the LTC laws.  There are many steps that can be taken by a qualified criminal defense attorney to make sure the State has a full understanding of what happened while still protecting your constitutional rights.  Although I cannot promise a dismissal or a No-Bill, I will promise to do everything in my power to obtain that result.

Call Fort Worth criminal attorney Stephen Handy today at 817-284-2263 or on his cell at 817-307-0679, if you have been arrested for any firearm or weapons offense.  He offers one-on-one personal contact with his clients and will provide a quality representation of any violation of LTC laws or other weapon offenses.