United States: Texas Open Carry Law: FAQs For Hospitals And Healthcare Facilities

As of January 1, 2016, concealed license holders in Texas can now legally carry their handguns visibly in hip or shoulder holsters. This comes at a time when violence in hospitals and healthcare facilities is on the rise. According to a 2015 survey published by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety Foundation, from 2012 to 2014, hospitals reported a 40 percent increase in violent crime. This increase comes not just from gang and drug violence, but also from disruptive patients and distraught relatives. The following FAQs offer discussion points for hospitals and healthcare facilities to consider as they decide whether and to what extent they should ban employees, patients and the public from carrying firearms onto their premises.

Concealed Handgun Law in Texas

The original concealed handgun law (SB 60), passed by the 74th Texas Legislature in 1995, afforded concealed handgun license (CHL) holders the right to carry concealed handguns in most public and private places. Since then, Texas law has generally recognized an employer's right to prevent their employees from bringing weapons to the workplace. However, in 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature passed the "parking lot law" (SB 321) that prevents employers from restricting an employee's right to store legally-owned firearms or ammunition in a privately-owned vehicle parked in the employer's lot or garage. Employers could still prevent employees with a CHL from bringing a firearm to the workplace or from storing a firearm in a company-provided vehicle. In 2015, the 84th Texas Legislature passed the new open carry law (HB 910), effective January 1, 2016. HB 910 authorizes anyone with a CHL to carry a handgun openly (in a hip or shoulder holster) in all locations where previously they could carry a concealed handgun.

Can Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Still Prohibit Employees from Bringing Firearms to Work?

Yes. Texas employers maintain the right to prohibit employees from bringing a weapon (openly or in a concealed manner) to the workplace. And employers may still prohibit employees from storing firearms or ammunition in company-provided vehicles. But, employees do retain the right to store legally-owned firearms and ammunition in a privately-owned vehicle that is parked in the employer's lot or garage.

Do Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Need to Update Their Employee Policies?

Probably not, as long as their current policies comply with the 2011 parking lot law and include language that prohibits employees from possessing weapons in the workplace. That being said, employers might consider revising their weapons policy to expressly prohibit employees from both possessing and carrying (openly or concealed) weapons at work the next time their policies are updated.

Can Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Prohibit the Public from Bringing Firearms onto the Premises?

Yes. Hospitals and healthcare facilities can provide verbal notice to any person (including vendors, visitors, patients, or contractors) that carrying firearms while on the premises is prohibited. However, due to the difficulties associated with proving verbal notice, written notice (i.e., posting signage or giving a card) of the prohibition should be given to nonemployees entering the premises. When written notice is provided, it must comply with Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code to be effective.

Are Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Required to Post a Sign Prohibiting Firearms?

No, but it is recommended that hospitals and healthcare facilities post signage anyway to be absolutely certain that everyone entering the premises receives actual or constructive notice of the prohibition against weapons on the premises to the fullest extent of the law. Additional considerations for certain public hospitals and government-owned healthcare facilities that wish to prohibit firearms apply and should be addressed with legal counsel.

What Are the Notice Requirements Under Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code?

To make it a criminal violation to bring a firearm onto the premises, hospitals and healthcare facilities must provide written notice using the precise language stated in Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code as follows:

Concealed Carry Notice: "Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun."

Open Carry Notice: "Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Section H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly."

Both notices are required. If only the Section 30.06 notice is posted, then concealed carry is illegal but open carry is still permitted. If only the Section 30.07 notice is posted, then open carry is illegal but concealed carry is still permitted. The notices must be in both English and Spanish. So a total of four notices must be posted. They must appear in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height. And they must be posted in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public. Hospitals and healthcare facilities can order these signs from any vendor that sells posters for the workplace.

Importantly, posting this signage would not prevent police officers and similar individuals from bringing weapons onto the premises. Hospitals and healthcare facilities can also authorize security guards and other individuals to carry firearms, notwithstanding the posted written notice.

The Bottom Line ...

The major change in the law is that licensed handgun holders can now openly carry wherever they previously could carry a concealed handgun. Hospitals and healthcare facilities can still prohibit the possession or carrying of weapons by their employees through their workforce policies. But in order to create a criminal deterrent for visitors, vendors, patients, contractors, and other third parties from carrying a firearm on the premises, written notice must be provided using the precise language stated in Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code. We recommend the posting of signs at each entrance to the property to ensure effective notice is communicated.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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