AUSTIN (KXAN) — A crowd carrying holstered handguns rallied at the Texas State Capitol steps New Year’s Day to celebrate the state’s new open carry law.
The rules, which allow concealed handgun license holders to carry visible, holstered handguns, kicked in Friday with the start of 2016.
“[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, at other schools, polling places, racetracks, court facilities or where property owners decide not to allow open carry. The law outlines proper signs and procedure for notifying the public that open carry is not allowed at a particular location.
Still, 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,” said Means.
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 has not 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,” said Means.
Means also raised concerns about uncomfortable and what he viewed as potentially-dangerous situations, such as arguments over a fare with a person openly carrying a gun. He also raised concern about cab drivers’ options if they suspect a person who is openly carrying their gun might be drunk.
Before the new year, some businesses began to put up signs to let 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 the people they interacted with during the first hours of the year 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 do not believe it goes 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.