License To Carry Instructor Cassie Shockey talks about gun safety tips. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com
License To Carry Instructor Cassie Shockey talks about gun safety tips. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

Politics & Government

Golden rule for Open Carry in Texas: Safety first

By Anna M. Tinsley

atinsley@star-telegram.com

December 31, 2015 11:01 AM

UPDATED January 02, 2016 07:26 AM

As Texans begin to stroll the streets wearing holstered handguns, Anna Kehde is worried.

She worries about accidents that might happen — accidental shootings — especially at a time when firearms and automobiles already are killing roughly the same number of Americans.

“There’s always a possibility of accidental shootings,” said Kehde, a volunteer leader with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “As a mother, I don’t want to see a gun in the checkout line. I fear someone could take hold of that gun and do something bad with it, even though the person carrying it is a law abiding citizen.

“Eight-eight Americans are killed every day (from) gun violence,” she said. “Having more guns around isn’t making us safer.”

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But it’s not a done deal that Open Carry will create an unsafe society, said Cassie Shockey, customer programs manager at Shoot Smart, a local gun range and training facility.

Safety training is a key part of every class someone takes to gain a license to carry a handgun — and the only people allowed to openly carry holstered handguns are those with the license, she said.

“Part of the training includes ... range and fire arm safety, main firearm safety rules, how to treat (guns) safely,” Shockey said. “People are getting proper instruction during training.”

Not only that, but those who have licenses are at least 21 and must have a clean criminal and mental health record.

In Texas, almost 914,000 people — nearly 4 percent of the state’s 27 million residents — have a license to carry, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Safety matters

Texans have been able to legally carry long guns in public for some time. And licensed Texans have been able to carry concealed handguns since 1995.

But Friday is the first time licensed Texans may openly carry holstered handguns, due to a law passed by the Texas Legislature.

Those who teach license-to-carry classes say Texans who openly carry their holstered handguns likely have had licenses for awhile.

The top priority is “to treat every firearm as if it’s loaded to keep accidents from happening.”

And that means they have gone through countless safety training classes.

The top priority, Shockey said, is “to treat every firearm as if it’s loaded to keep accidents from happening.”

Other that that, a top priority “is to always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction. That would be in a holster or, if it’s on a range, it will be down range toward your target,” she said.

“Additional rules are to always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire and always be sure of your target — and what is beyond.”

Firearms are among the top non-medical causes of death in the United States, killing around 30,000 people each year.

National concern

Gun safety has always been a top concern for many, including the National Rifle Association.

That’s why basic NRA rules remind members to know the target, know how to use the gun safely, make sure the gun is safe to operate, use only the proper ammunition for the gun and wear eye and ear protection as appropriate.

NRA rules also remind gun owners to never use drugs or alcohol before or while shooting and store guns so no one can get to them.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation agrees.

“Don’t be timid when it comes to gun safety,” according to their website. “If you observe anyone violating any safety precautions, you have an obligation to insist on safer handling practices.

“Develop safe shooting habits, and remember, firearms safety is up to you.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

National Rifle Association Gun Safety Rules

1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction

2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot

3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use

Source: NRA

Where to Open Carry?

Wondering where you might be able to openly carry holstered handguns locally as of Jan. 1? Here’s a quick look at some of the places that have weighed in on the issue.

Kroger, Home Depot and Bass Pro Shops are among the national retailers that have said it’s OK to openly carry guns on their property.

Whole Foods, AMC Movie Theaters, Chuck E. Cheese, Half Price Books, Toys R Us, Grand Prairie Premium Outlets, Hulen Mall, The Parks at Arlington and Ridgmar Mall are among the establishments saying open carry is not allowed.

And companies such as Whataburger and HEB grocery stores say it’s OK for patrons to carry concealed handguns. But they won’t allow open carry.

State law requires any business that doesn’t want guns on their property must post two signs — 30.07 (preventing open carry) and 30.06 (preventing concealed carry) — at any entrance and exit. The signs must list in contrasting colors, using letters at least an inch tall, a 38-word message in English and Spanish.

— Anna M. Tinsley