AUSTIN (KXAN) – A crowd carrying holstered handguns rallied at the Texas State Capitol steps on New Year’s Day to celebrate the state’s new open carry law.
The law, which allows concealed handgun license holders to carry visible, holstered handguns, went into effect Friday.
“[The law] allows me to leave the house dressed as I want to dress. I don’t have to worry about…hiding anything. It allows quicker access time to my firearm if I need it,” said Johnathon Griffith, who supports open carry and attended the rally.
There are some exceptions to the rules. Open carry is not allowed on college campuses, schools, polling places, racetracks, court facilities or where property owners decide to not permit open carry.
The law outlines proper signs and procedure for notifying the public that open carry is not allowed at a particular location.
Ron Means, the general manager of Austin Cab, says the law presents challenges for taxi companies.
“We don’t want cab drivers packing weapons, but we don’t want people riding behind our cab drivers packing weapons either,” he said.
Means says he supports open carry, but not in taxis. He says he does not want to allow open carry in his cabs, but right now he is allowing it because he hasn’t received further guidance from the City of Austin.
“The city regulates everything regarding a cab. They tell us what signs we can put on a car and what signs we can’t,” Means said.
He raised concerns about what he views as uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations, such as arguments over a fare with a person openly carrying a gun. Means also worries about cab drivers’ options if they suspect a person openly carrying a gun might be drunk.
Before the new year, some businesses began putting up signs letting patrons know they are not allowed to openly carry firearms at their establishments. Opponents of the law are pushing for more businesses to block open carry on their properties.
Still, supporters of the law who were openly carrying their firearms at the rally Friday said people they interacted with seemed to understand the new rules.
The founder of the advocacy group Come and Take It Texas, Murdoch Pizgatti, said the understanding he encountered is thanks in part to recent public service and educational campaigns from police departments in Texas.
“[I] stopped in a lot places on my way [to the Texas Capitol] this morning, and everybody seems to be pretty well-informed and okay with [open carry],” said Pizgatti.
While opponents of the changes believe the law goes too far, some supporters think it doesn’t go far enough.
Several gun rights advocates discussed plans to push for so-called constitutional carry, which would allow the open carry of guns without a handgun license.