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How a New Texas Law Will Reduce Handgun License Fees

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

How a New Texas Law Will Reduce Handgun License Fees

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Texas Senate Bill 16 (S.B. 16), authored by Texas Senators Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) lowers the fee for first-time gun license holders to $40 from $140. The license renewal fee is also reduced to $40 from $70. License fees are waived for members of Texas’ military forces and law enforcement officers.

NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauded Texas’ prioritization to address “License to Carry” (LTC) fees in the Lone Star State. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Senators Huffman and Nichols said the law helps Texans to exercise the Constitutional right to self-defense under the Second Amendment.

S.B. 16 had deep support from representatives and senators in Texas. In January 2016, the open carry law, H.B. 910 went into effect.

What is the Open Carry Law in Texas?

The law recognizes non-Texans to open carry in some instances as well. The law allows individuals to openly carry a handgun, either unloaded or loaded, in either a shoulder or hip holster. If the holster is attached to the wearer’s belt, this meets the legal requirement of a belt holster.

It’s unnecessary to conceal a handgun as it was in the past.

In order to openly carry a handgun in Texas, the individual must be at least 21 years old and have a concealed-handgun license (CHL). A gun owner isn’t required to apply for a new license for open carry. He or she must have a clean psychological and criminal record, complete required classroom training and pass the shooting test.

You can openly carry in your vehicle if you have an active license. If you don’t have a license, you must conceal the handgun. Note that the handgun must be “within an arm’s reach,” within a holster.

Dos and Don’ts of the Open Carry Law

About three percent of the population in Texas (about one million people) had concealed handgun licenses in 2015. Some important facts about the open carry law include:

  • You aren’t allowed to carry a handgun everywhere in Texas. Secured airport areas, schools, courtrooms, and polling places are some of the “gun-free zones” in the state.
  • You may be prevented from carrying a handgun in a local or state governmental meeting, sporting events, or on municipal property. Check the laws in your area.
  • You can’t open carry at a public, private, or independent institution of higher learning, such as a college or university.
  • You can’t open carry a handgun on a public/private driveway, sidewalk, walkway, street, parking garage/area on the premises of a higher education institution.
  • You can’t open carry if you’re a personal protection officer (under Chapter 1702 of the Occupations Code) and you aren’t wearing a uniform.
  • You have the option to choose whether to prohibit guns if you’re a business owner. You must post signs if that’s the case.

Although most people in Texas wanted the open carry law, those who opposed it were vocal in their dissent.

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Why is the Open Carry Law Controversial?

Some people feel uncomfortable when they see another person openly carrying a handgun in a holster. Others say it’s more difficult for law enforcement to identify criminals:

  • Anti-gun groups, such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, didn’t want the bill to become law.
  • However, it’s estimated that three-fourths of all police chiefs and two-thirds of Texas citizens wanted to expand the right to open carry in Texas.
  • Supporters of the law criticize opponents. They believe that not much will change. Many other states allow permitted gun owners to open carry. Texas became the 45th state to do so.
  • Advocate groups, such as Open Carry Texas, believe that the open carry law is all about self-defense.

Businesses and Open Carry

Some businesses, including Home Depot and Kroger, have allowed open carry. Some, like Brook’s Place (a popular barbecue restaurant in suburban Houston), give a discount to diners openly carrying guns. Others, like HEB (grocery store), allow concealed carry only.

You may openly carry on a business property that doesn’t display a “30.07 sign.” This sign bans open carry. A “30.06 sign” applies to concealed carry. If a business wishes to totally ban firearms, it most post both 30.06 and 30.07 signs. A business owner may request a gun owner to remove the weapon or ask the owner to leave the business property. In that case, it’s important to respect this wish: the owner may accuse the gun owner of unlawful carry or criminal trespass.

How Will S.B. 16 Impact Those Who Want to Exercise Their Second Amendment Rights?

H.B. 910 is viewed as a start to enable Texans to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment. Texas lawmakers have been considering a “Constitutional Carry” law, H.B. 375 (Rep. Jonathan Strickland, R-Bedford). H.B. 375 seeks to allow any individual of at least 18 years of age to openly carry an unlicensed handgun.

The House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee agreed that two measures will provide easier access to handguns for Texans:

  • Senate Bill 16 reduces first-time fees for a handgun license by $100—from $140 to $40. Annual renewal fees are discounted from $70 to $40. Texas’ gun carry costs are now the lowest in the country. The cost to Texas is significant. It will lose about $22 million in revenues in the 2018-19 budget, adding to an approximately $6 billion shortfall caused by declining oil prices. Lower fees to obtain a handgun license in Texas are likely to attract other states’ residents. Texas will permit out-of-state residents to apply in some cases.
  • If passed, House Bill 375 would offer everyone the right to open carry (with, or without, a permit.) Constitutional Carry means that a law-abiding citizen may legally possess a handgun and do so without the permission of the government. The law doesn’t allow violent criminals or felons to carry or own a firearm.

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How Do I Apply for an Open Carry License in Texas?

According to Tex. GC § 411.172, you must be 21 years old unless you’re an active duty military member and you must meet the federal qualifications to purchase a handgun. (18 USC 44 § 922) You may be ineligible for an open carry license if you have 1) prior felony convictions, 2) certain misdemeanor convictions, 3) a prior charge that resulted in deferred adjudication or probation, 4) certain types of pending criminal charges, 5) alcohol or chemical dependency, 6) specific psychological diagnoses, or 7) restraining or protective orders.

You are also required to submit a complete application to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), pay fees, perform required trainings, and submit all supplemental materials and forms.

If you’re a first-time (original) applicant for the Texas License to Carry a Handgun (LTC), you should complete the application online. After submission, you must schedule a fingerprinting appointment. In addition, you must:

  • Complete up to six hours of training in the classroom
  • Pass a written exam
  • Pass a shooting proficiency assessment

After you successfully complete the training class, the instructor will provide you with an LTC-100 Certificate (Certificate of Training). You must submit the form to DPS.
After submission, DPS should issue the license within 60 days of its receipt of your complete application. If your application requires more information to perform the background check, DPS will send written notification.

DPS may communicate with you about prior arrests. This may take additional processing time (up to an additional 180 days from submission of the requested information).
To renew an LTC, submit a renewal application online. DPS uses fingerprints and photos previously submitted for your renewal application. If the quality of prints doesn’t meet FBI or state of Texas standards, DPS will notify you to make a new fingerprinting appointment.

As of September 1, 2017, standard fees for the original LTC are $40 (decreased from $140). The renewal fee of an existing LTC is $40 (decreased from $70). Check the fee schedule to learn if you’re eligible for additional discounts. Note that if your application is declined, DPS won’t refund the fees.

Your Legal Rights in Texas

If you’re facing a criminal charge or you were previously convicted of a crime in Texas, assessing the everyday rights of law-abiding citizens in Texas can be a challenge. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights.

As a former prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (both misdemeanor and felony courts), Greg Tsioros has the skills you need now. Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros to arrange an initial case evaluation.

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