Texas starts New Year with law allowing open carry of handguns

Supporters of a new Texas law that went into affect on Friday (January 1) allowing the open carry of handguns rallied in front of the State Capitol building in Austin.
With guns holstered openly, the group celebrated the law that allows licensed Texans for the first time since 1871 to carry a holstered pistol in public under an "open carry" law passed in the Republican-dominated 2015 legislative session.
Supporters have said the law would enhance public safety in the state of 27 million people. Texas will be the most-populous US state to allow open carry. Opponents have said it could be chilling for the public to see armed people on city streets, and inside public buildings and designated stores.
"It allows me to leave the house dressed as I want to dress," said Johnathon Griffith.
"I don't have to worry about am I hiding anything. It allows quicker access time to my firearm if I need it."
Murdoch Pizgatti, founder of the group "Come And Take It Texas," said for him the first day of the new law has gone well.
"I stopped in a lot places on my way here this morning and everybody seems to be pretty well informed and okay with it," said Pizgatti.
Under the new law, nearly 1 million people in Texas who have passed a required safety course and have a concealed handgun permit are allowed to carry holstered handguns.
The law allows individual property owners and companies to ban open carry inside their establishments. If businesses opt out, they are required to display a specifically worded sign on their doors.
Many Texas companies, like H-E-B grocery, the state's largest private employer, have said they would continue to allow concealed carrying of firearms, but not open carry.
H-E-B noted that many customers have said they would be uncomfortable with people in store aisles openly carrying a pistol.
One of the most debated aspects of the law was a provision allowing police to ask to see the permit of anyone openly carrying a handgun. Groups like Open Carry Texas said that would allow police to harass law-abiding citizens.
Law enforcement officials have voiced concern about how to approach an unfolding crime scene where multiple people can be seen with weapons, which could cause deadly confusion in active shooter scenarios.
The law specifically bans the carrying of guns, either openly or concealed, in a wide variety of places including schools, bars, sports arenas and secure areas of airports.