This story originally appeared on Texas Public Radio.
Licensed Texas gun owners can now enter businesses and openly holster their weapons if the businesses allow it. However, thousands of Texas businesses are just saying “No” to open carry.
On the first day of 2016, hundreds of licensed concealed handgun owners gathered on the steps of the state capitol to celebrate Texas’ new gun law.
The crowd responded with cheers as one speaker said, “Now, I’m not a criminal. I am not a different person because I took my jacket off.”
C.J. Grisham, the president of Open Carry Texas, knows many Texas businesses are posting a state-issued sign banning openly displayed handguns. The legislature gave private businesses that option when it passed the open carry law.
“We’re not the people they need to be afraid of. We’re licensed. We’ve gone through background checks,” Grisham said. “We’ve proven that we are safe. We are the safest segment of society. What do they know about the rest of their customers?”
The Texas Department of Public Safety says four percent of Texas residents – about 826,000 – have registered for concealed handguns licenses and can now openly carry their firearms where that’s allowed.
Some big Texas businesses including, HEB, Whole Foods and Torchy’s Tacos say they’re banning openly carried handguns in their stores, stating that the law might make customers uneasy and drive them away. HEB and Torchy’s will continue to allow concealed handguns.
Some smaller mom and pop businesses like Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy Store in Austin have also posted warning signs warning customers not to display firearms.
Store manager Megan Ruck says, “We don’t think it’s a necessary aspect of our store and what we sell here. You know open carry really doesn’t have a place in a family-friendly environment with lots of games and people around. We are fine with concealed carry for your personal protection. We just didn’t want to extend that policy to open carry at this time.”
But Paul Liu, owner of Amigos Bar-B-Que and Grill in Pflugerville, says allowing open carry in his restaurant was an easy decision.
“A lot of our regular customers are CHL holders, so it’s not something new to them,” he says.
Liu says he takes down the name of customers openly carrying and notes the type of guns they are packing – just in case he’s questioned by law enforcement about the people who have eaten at his restaurant.
“I truly don’t understand it. I wish someone could explain it to me what is so offensive about seeing a firearm in the open,” he says. “Or is it only offensive because their family hasn’t been attacked?”
Just where open carry will be allowed is confusing, so a Houston attorney has created a website called Texas3006.com. It identifies businesses in Texas that prohibit guns and looks at whether they’re properly displaying the signs stating their positions.
Gun owners rallying at the Capitol say the website is a list of places where they won’t business.