Open Carry Texas has been growing by leaps and bounds. I would venture to say we average about 30 new members every day – not bad for a fairly new organization. One of the frequent questions I see on our Facebook group is “where do I start?” Hopefully, this post will help you get started and keep you out of legal trouble. Please keep in mind that this isn’t legal advice in any way. This information is presented based on experience and personal inspection and study of Texas statutes.
Before I even get started, I think it’s important to put on your suit of armor. Not literally, but figuratively. You don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle without making sure you have insurance, so why would you strap on a gun without the peace of mind that should you get hemmed up you’ll be taken care of? There are several companies out there that I personally recommend and use. You’ll have to do your own research about which one will best suit your needs, but you’re taking a major gamble as a gun owner not having at least one of them. Trust me. As a law-abiding citizen that never so much as had a cop look at me crossways prior to my arrest, I never thought I’d end up in jail for nearly 11 hours facing a charges for lawfully carrying my gun.
The first company I recommend is call the National Association for Legal Gun Defense (NALGD). With a membership through NALGD, you have a $1 million guarantee of legal coverage. This coverage covers you in the event that you need to defend yourself with anything including, but not limited to, firearms, stun guns, or pepper spray. This program not only pays for attorney’s fees, but also covers more than just one attorney if needed. They cover both criminal and civil litigation, provide expert witnesses and private investigators if needed, and even help with the bail bond – everything you need to defend yourself against a tyrannical and oppressive justice system. Membership includes access to a huge library of DVDs, courses and books online to help educate yourself on self defense and the law. The library also includes manuals for just about any gun you can think of and how-to videos in dealing with gunshot wounds. Coverage is good in all 50 states, so you aren’t tied down only having peace of mind at home. Coverage is only $12.50 per month or $150 annually. If you choose to join NALGD, please use promo code “135278.”
The second company is called US Law Shield. They are in nearly every state and you may recognize them by the name Texas Law Shield. If you are a member of the Texas Law Shield Firearms Legal Defense Program and you “use” a firearm in Texas, their lawyers will represent you in any legal proceeding (criminal or civil), for zero additional attorneys’ fees. This involves any legal manner of using a firearm whether it involves merely carrying it or using it for self defense. They have a 24/7/365 attorney-answered hotline so when you call them you are talking to your lawyers. They also provide periodic updates on laws effecting gun owners’ rights and changes in firearms law. A key component of their firearms program is education. Plans start at about $7.50 per month for single, non-CHL holders to about $20 per month for a CHL-holding couple. If you go with Texas Law Shield, please use promo code “opencarry.”
The final company we recommend is Legal Shield. Of the three, I believe that Legal Shield has been around the longest to offer pre-paid legal services. The main difference with Legal Shield is that they are are not nailed down to just providing gun owners with peace of mind. They handle most any legal need, from traffic accidents to more serious issues requiring legal assistance. From their website: “LegalShield not only provides legal services in 49 states and 4 Canadian Provinces; but also it provides confidence and peace of mind for families everywhere. For one low monthly fee our members gain access to quality law firms without having to worry about high hourly costs. Because our attorneys are all paid in advance, they provide the same level of service for trivial or traumatic legal situations.” Plans range from about $17-50 depending on what kind of coverage you think you need.
Ok, so now that you’re protected, it’s time to leave the house and exercise your rights! The only rights you have in this world are the rights you’re willing to fight for and exercise. So, strap on your gun and head out the door. But, first, make sure you do a few things.
While it’s by no means required in Texas, make sure your weapon has a sling on it and carry the weapon slung instead of in your hands. Having a rifle or shotgun in your hands no matter where you go sends the wrong message to the public. Generally, the only people that carry a weapon in their hands are people that are intent on using it – usually not for good purposes. Having the weapon slung across your body or shoulder shows that you are not a threat to anyone. Texas law does not regulate the carry of longarms, except to prohibit them from being carried “in a manner calculated to cause alarm.” You can read the full law on our law page here. Court precedent has interpreted this to mean that the firearm is pointed or waved at someone in a threatening manner. There is not a single case that we can find of someone being found guilty of this simply by carrying the weapon legally. We recommend that you carry the weapon across your back with the barrel down and on safe. If you have a bandoleer sling, we recommend that you don’t use them during OC events. While not a normal occurrence, there is a likelihood that bullets or shells could fall out of the bandoleer and accidentally fire upon landing. It also makes us look unsafe and unfocused on safety when those things happen. Also, don’t leave the house without some ability to record ANY encounter you will have with police. This is for YOUR safety, even if the encounter is completely friendly and non-confrontational.
If this will be the first OC in your area, whether alone or with others, we recommend that you call the police chief and sheriff to notify them of your intentions. This allows law enforcement leaders to inform their patrol and dispatch personnel in case someone calls. Sometimes, they will assign an officer to keep an eye on you throughout your walk. Don’t be worried about these as they could come in handy should some anti-gun lunatic try to make trouble by calling 911 and weaving lies that you were pointing your weapon at people or some other threatening act. There are a number of responses that LEOs will give to your announcement and they range from “if you do it, we will arrest you” to “no problem, thanks for letting us know. Be safe.”
If you are told you will be arrested, do not let this hinder you. You are NOT breaking the law – the police are. Politely inform them that you are not asking permission, but informing them you will be engaging in a legal activity and any attempt to violate that will result in a civil lawsuit and criminal charges. Remind them that it’s a federal crime for anyone acting under “color of law” willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive a person of a right protected by the Constitution or U.S. law. “Color of law” simply means that the person is using authority given to him or her by a local, state, or federal government agency and the FBI aggressively investigates these crimes. Title 42, U.S.C., Section 14141 makes it unlawful for state or local law enforcement agencies to allow officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or U.S. laws. It may be helpful to quote this to the supervisor with whom you speak.
When you call law enforcement, tell them approximately how many are in your group and the general area in which you’ll be walking. You are not required to tell any specific information relating to the weapon you are carrying, to include serial numbers or models. Just tell them you will be lawfully carrying a rifle or shotgun to draw awareness to Texas open carry laws and educate the public that the sight of a gun isn’t something to fear. Remember, an armed society is a polite society. After one or two OC walks, you shouldn’t need to call them anymore, but that is up to you. The 4th mission of OCT is to “foster a cooperative relationship with local law enforcement in the furtherance of these goals with an eye towards preventing negative encounters.” While we want to foster that positive relationship, we will not allow our rights to be violated and will, in fact, demand they be respected. Remember that you are master, not the servant.
Once you’re lawyered up, grabbed your camera, and informed law enforcement, do a quick map search to ensure that you won’t be going near sensitive areas. It’s good to avoid walking near schools, airports, post offices, and other federal buildings. Plan your route accordingly.
Finally, don’t wear clothing that would draw negative attention to you. For example, don’t let your pants hang down to your ankles and don’t wear “F*** the police” shirts or other offensive clothing. If possible, try to avoid wearing sun glasses or hats that conceal most of your face. If people can see your eyes, they tend to feel more comfortable. Do not wear militant clothing, like full battle rattle, to include ballistic vests, web gear, etc. Try to be as approachable as possible so people feel comfortable asking you what you’re doing. You attract more bees with honey than vinegar, the saying goes.
When/if approached by law enforcement, try to be as courteous as possible. A good rule of thumb is that you give the same respect to them that they give to you. It’s not disrespectful to stand up for your rights. If the LEO gets snippity or authoritarian try to stay calm and continue to insist they respect your rights. There is no need to present ID if they do not suspect you of a crime, but that is up to each individual person’s comfort level. It can be daunting to stand up to an abusive LEO, but you have the law on your side.
It’s best to completely know the law and be able to articulate it to whomever you come in contact. If you’re going to OC, you have to expect that there are many that don’t know the law, including law enforcement. If you can’t articulate your rights and the law, you will lose in the streets. Police officers don’t take the time to learn the law and some simply don’t care! If you encounter an officer that point blank tells you he doesn’t care about the law and doesn’t think you should be walking with a rifle, call the department immediately and ask to speak with a supervisor. Or, revert to the membership card the above companies will send you and give them a call immediately. Handing the phone to an officer and telling him your attorney would like a word with him changes minds quickly.