As reported previously, in addition to celebrating the new year, starting January 1, Texans also celebrated a new open-carry gun law which took effect in the new year. 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.
Proponents of the new open carry law say making guns more visible will deter mass shootings. The bill became law after a spirited debate.
However, not everyone was in favor of the idea to discourage violence through demonstrating weapons: a majority of the state's police chiefs opposed it.
"The question is: Does it make sense and is it good judgment to have a bunch of people running around with guns visible? And I think the answer is: Absolutely not," said Chief Art Acevedo of Austin.
Others are for it: 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."
"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."
Even with the new state legislation, 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.
Furthermore, private businesses are allowed to ban guns if they choose. 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."
Hopefully he is right and openly displayed weapons will indeed deter violence.
In the meantime Texans should get accustomed to sights such as this one which over the coming weeks and months will become increasingly recurring.