A recent flurry of Texas law changes have local and national retailers considering whether to prohibit customers from openly carrying weapons inside of their stores.
This past January, Texas’s “open carry” law went into effect, allowing gun owners to carry their weapons holstered either at their hip or on their shoulder. The Texas law does have limitations, including an exclusion banning open carry on the premises of restaurants and bars that make more than 51 percent of their gross profits from alcohol sales, and, significant for retailers, a provision that allows businesses to prohibit open carry on their premises, as long as they post certain specified signage alerting customers of the ban.
Prior to the Texas law taking effect, businesses could prohibit concealed weapons inside their businesses pursuant to Tex. Penal Code § 30.06, which provides that any customer who enters private property with a concealed weapon commits a trespass as long as the sign containing the language of Tex. Penal Code § 30.06 was posted outside. Now, businesses in Texas desiring to prohibit open carry must post additional signage containing the exact wording in Tex. Penal Code § 30.07, which states that “a license holder commits an offense if the license holder: (1) openly carries a handgun under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, on property of another without effective consent; and (2) received notice that entry on the property by a license holder openly carrying a handgun was forbidden.” Provided that the sign has been appropriately posted, any customer who carries a visible firearm into a business may be considered a trespasser.
Some businesses in Texas have already begun to take note. Austin-based Whole Foods has updated their signage at Texas locations to specifically state their prohibition against visible firearms inside store premises. Other grocery stores, such as Kroger, are allowing customers with openly visible weapons to enter their stores so long as they are permitted by law to open-carry. Another chain retailer also allows open carry, but requires their most senior manager to confirm the customer can produce all proper permits while on-site.
Not unexpectedly, consumer groups already appear to be taking sides, further complicating the decision as to whether to permit or prohibit customers from bringing weapons on-site. Some groups maintain lists of Texas establishments banning or permitting open carry. Regardless of whether a business chooses to permit or prohibit customers from carrying weapons, it will be important for businesses to be aware of this changing landscape and any new legislative or judicial developments.