January 1, 2017 marked one year since the Texas Open Carry law went into effect. One year later, how is the law impacting Lubbock?
“I don’t think it’s been a big issue, for Lubbock at least,” said Michael Palmer, owner of Lubbock CHL. He teaches handgun license classes throughout the year in Lubbock and around Texas. Palmer said that compared to the hype surrounding the law, there has been little impact to the Hub City.
Specifically, the Open Carry law allows Texans who are licensed to carry handguns to openly display their holstered firearms. To obtain these licenses, gun owners have to train and take classes. They also have to receive background checks and criminal record checks. Licensed individuals who choose to open carry have to keep an eye out for businesses who prohibit open carry by placing clearly marked signs at their establishments.
Palmer explained that when the law was first passed he received some questions.
“Once it finally passed I got lots of inquiries as to when classes were, what restrictions are, how are they going to word it, what’s the legality of it,” he said.
Assistant Chief Jon Caspell with Lubbock Police recalls similar “buzz” about the law and questions for the police department.
“There really was a lot of talk about it and the potential it might have, but really we haven’t seen hardly impact at all,” Caspell said.
Both Caspell and Palmer said they really haven’t seen people around Lubbock excercising their right to open carry.
“Even walking around in public and teaching in classes I really don’t see anyone really carrying that way,” Palmer said.
He added that the law did give a boost to the numbers of people taking classes.
“You could see a slight increase before 2016 happened. When they passed it in the legislature and said yeah, ok, it’s gonna be law, we saw a slight spike in classes with people coming in and taking the license,” he said. “And then a little bit at the start of (2016) the first two months, maybe three, we kind of had an increase.”
Now Palmer says, that increase has eased off. He added that for many licensed gun owners, open carrying is simply an option. For some, they prefer to keep their weapons concealed.
Palmer explained some insight he shares with his students:
“I also explain how disadvantageous it can be if you give away the fact that you’re carrying a gun to a potential bad guy, they already see you as a threat first rather than being able to be reactionary and maybe stopping something from happening,” Palmer said.
Another facet of the Open Carry law is that law enforcement can ask people they see openly carrying to show their license.
Assistant Chief Caspell said to his knowledge, everyone LPD has checked with willingly hands over their paperwork .
“We don’t have any reports that we’ve had any difficulty for the most part, the type of person–generally speaking– that wants to open carry is someone that wants to enforce the law. They understand what the law is therefor the reasons behind it,” Caspell said.
Caspell said he can’t speak for other Texas cities, but he believes in Lubbock, the law has been implemented smoothly.
“Lubbock seems to be more of a gun-friendly community and because of that culture here we just haven’t seen a whole lot of problems. Maybe that phrase, “in like a lion, out like a whisper,” might be a good phrase here,” Caspell said.
He added that just because someone is openly carrying in a holster doesn’t mean they are licensed. Caspell encourages anyone who is suspicious of another person they see carrying a weapon to give police a call.