Texas Businesses Adapt To Open-Carry Law

Jan 4, 2016
Originally published on January 2, 2016 6:14 pm

The celebrations for the new year also marked a new open-carry gun law taking effect in Texas. Handgun license holders in Texas will now be allowed to carry their guns in visible holsters on their hip or shoulder.

Previously, Texans wanting to carry a handgun had to obtain a concealed handgun license and conceal their weapon. With the new law, the more than 826,000 state license holders will be allowed to openly display their handguns in most public places.

However, the law allows private businesses to ban guns if they choose. And some business owners are concerned about the implications of having openly armed customers.

Dallas restaurant owner Jack Perkins is a gun rights supporter, but he says visible weapons may be bad for business.

"There's a large amount of the population that guns scare them," Perkins says. "If there are three or four people in the restaurant all carrying guns then you're going to be uncomfortable. And I'd just rather people not be uncomfortable."

Perkins owns Dallas-based The Slow Bone, a barbecue spot, and Maple & Motor, which specializes in burgers. He says his weapon of choice is a Glock 43, and he frequently carries it in his front pocket. He doesn't object to customers bringing concealed weapons into his restaurants.

"Carrying a concealed weapon is all about eventualities — things that might happen, and protection in that case," he says. "There's a lot of cash in my business. I have employees too. Restaurants get robbed, businesses get robbed, and I have employees that I would like to protect."

But Perkins makes the distinction between carrying a gun underneath clothing and carrying it in the open.

"Carrying a gun outside, on your person where it's visible, is at least an implied threat," he says. "If deadly force is your final threat, you're making it right away, visibly. ... I just really don't want that kind of threat feeling in either of the restaurants."

The number of people with handgun permits makes up only about 4 percent of Texas' population of more than 27 million. Out of these, Perkins thinks the number of people who want to openly carry weapons is pretty small.

But open-carry advocates have been a very vocal minority in the past. In 2014, young men showed up at fast food restaurants around Texas carrying tactical long rifles in protest. Groups in Fort Worth have staged weekly walks carrying weapons like the AR-15 and AK-47.

In response, chains including Starbucks, Jack In The Box, Chili's, Sonic and Chipotle have asked customers to leave weapons at home.

If private businesses want to prevent people from bringing weapons inside, they are required by the law to display a sign with 1-inch block lettering. Separate signs are required for banning open carry and concealed carry. Perkins says he plans to put one up, but he doesn't foresee it causing any issues.

"I don't think it's going to be a problem for us," Perkins says. "I don't think we're going to have confrontations."

Perkins is one of the large majority — 85 percent according to one study — of gun owners who support requiring background checks for all gun sales. He thinks laws like this exist because the gun lobby "wants to push its agenda as far as it can just in case it gets pushed back." He says gun opponents do the same thing.

President Obama is preparing to take executive action on gun control, after an effort to get legislation through Congress failed three years ago following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

"I believe completely in responsible gun ownership, and I believe completely in a dialogue that gets us to that point without rhetoric and venom," Perkins says.

"There's nothing in the Constitution, especially in the Second Amendment, that says we can't be smart about this. I'm all for an open dialogue. I think if we check backgrounds, if we sell guns to people who are going to operate them responsibly and own them responsibly, I just don't understand why we can't think about it more than just feel about it."

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Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to take a few minutes to look into that new open-carry law in Texas. Dallas restaurant owner Jack Perkins tells us he usually has a handgun concealed in his front pocket. The Glock 43 is his choice at the moment as he handles the cash at his barbecue spot The Slow Bone, or his burger joint the Maple And Motor. But that doesn't mean he wants people openly carrying guns there. We called him at the Maple And Motor just before the lunch rush on New Year's Eve, the day before the new law took effect, so we could ask him why he's probably going to take advantage of a provision of the new law that allows him to ban openly-carried guns at his restaurants.

JACK PERKINS: I'm not sure many people are going to carry their guns on the outside of their clothes. But if you do - and there's a large amount of the population that - guns scare them. If there are three or four people in the restaurant all carrying guns, then you're going to be uncomfortable. And I'd just rather people not be uncomfortable.

MARTIN: So you don't have an objection to people carrying concealed weapons on your - in your businesses? It's just the open ones?

PERKINS: No, no, not at all, not at all.

MARTIN: How come?

PERKINS: It's not an overt threat. Carrying a concealed weapon is all about eventuality - things that might happen and protection. And in that case, carrying a gun outside on your person, where it's visible, is at least an implied threat. At its worst point, it's the final threat. So if there's a conflict, there's really no place else to go.

MARTIN: Why do you carry a gun all the time? You say you're carrying one right now.

PERKINS: I am. There's a lot of cash in my business. I mean, restaurants get robbed, businesses get robbed. I have employees that I would like to protect. Although, I've got to tell you, I don't know that I would get into a gunfight if provoked. But I like to have the option there to do that if I needed to.

MARTIN: But why have you though? Since you - you know, you've thought about this as a person who's kind of got a foot in both worlds. I mean, on the one hand, you are a gun owner yourself - and I presume you've taught yourself how to use it properly.

PERKINS: I have.

MARTIN: But you also have respect for people who don't have those feelings or who have different feelings about guns. You know, how would you mediate this? I mean, the fact is that there have been some truly terrible incidents in 2015 involving guns and particularly mass shootings. And, you know, a lot of people are looking for a way forward here. What's your idea?

PERKINS: Well, I believe completely in responsible gun ownership. And I believe completely in a dialogue that gets us to that point without rhetoric and venom. There's nothing in the Constitution, especially in the Second Amendment, that says we can't be smart about this. And I think if we check backgrounds, if we sell guns to people who are going to operate them responsibly and own them responsibly, I just don't understand why we can't think about it more than just feel about it.

MARTIN: I see. Before I let you go, do you think anybody's going to challenge you on your decision?

PERKINS: I don't think we're going to have confrontation. I think people will see it, they'll boycott us if they don't like it and we're fine with that. I was on the front page of the paper with this issue, and a neighborhood man knocked on the door of the restaurant because we weren't open yet and would not let my hand go as he shook it and thanked me for voicing my opinion and for it to be one of some sanity. So I don't think it's going to be a problem for us. I think the people who are rational and think things through will come and eat, enjoy themselves like they always do. And the people who aren't will just avoid us.

MARTIN: Well, good luck to you. Happy New Year.

PERKINS: Thank you. Happy New Year to you.

MARTIN: That's Jack Perkins - he owns The Slow Bone and a burger joint, the Maple And Motor, in Dallas - that's where we reached him. He's a gun-rights supporter, but we're talking to him about banning openly-carried guns in his restaurants. Mr. Perkins, thanks so much for speaking with us.

PERKINS: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.