Texas law allows residents of the state to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun. An applicant for a license must meet certain requirements and take a safety training course. The state began issuing licenses on January 1, 1996. This article focuses on how the concealed handgun laws interact with real property rights.
Basics of Concealed Handguns on Private Property
Texas law lists certain places where concealed handguns are not allowed to be carried. These include bars (a business which derives 51% or more of its income from the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption), sporting events, jails, hospitals, nursing homes, amusement parks, churches, synagogues, and other established places of religious worship.
Right to Exclude Concealed Handguns from Property
The concealed handgun law does not limit the right of a public or private employer to prohibit people from carrying a concealed handgun on business premises. This means that manufacturers and other businesses which are not open to the public are entitled to prohibit their employees from bringing guns on the premises. But some confusion has resulted from this provision of the statute. The use of the word "employer" could mean that this provision allows employers to prohibit their employees from carrying guns, but that it was not intended to allow a business owner to prevent non-employee visitors from carrying guns on the premises.
The statute is not specific about whether a business other than those specifically listed may prohibit guns on the premises. For example, it is not clear whether the owner of a cafeteria, video store, hotel or multi-tenant office building may prohibit customers or tenants from bringing guns in the premises. However, the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Texas did address the issue before the concealed carry law passed. The opinion concludes that a business owner or operator may exclude license holders carrying concealed handguns from their business.
"No Guns Allowed" Signs
If a business owner decides to adopt the position that she is entitled to prohibit the carrying of handguns on her premises, she might post a sign at the door which states "no guns allowed" announcing the policy of the business.
Bars, hospitals and nursing homes are required to display at each entrance a sign in both English and Spanish that it is unlawful to carry a handgun on the premises. Any other business owner, however, should carefully consider the ramifications of having a policy which could be difficult to effectively enforce. It is interesting to note that the new law requires the handgun to be concealed. Since the law requires license holders to conceal their handguns, the only way to enforce a policy prohibiting guns would be to frisk everyone who comes onto the premises. If the business owner establishes the policy but does not effectively enforce it, then there is the potential for a claim if a shooting incident were to occur on the property.
Property Ownership and Liability
Property owners and investors may wish to include a provision in their lease form which requires the tenant to indemnify (repay) the owner against any incidents which may occur on the property. Also, owners and tenants may wish to discuss with their insurance agents the possible impact of prohibiting handguns on the premises (or even the failure to prohibit handguns) on the insurance coverage for the property or business.
If you would like to know more about how concealed carry laws apply to your property, and what you can do to protect yourself from liability, there are many real estate lawyers throughout Texas who may be able to help.