On Saturday motorists driving along Central Boulevard near Wild Rose Lane might have seen an unusual sight, a group of six men, some openly carrying handguns in belt holsters, holding up signs in English and Spanish and waving at passing and stopped cars.
The group then walked up Central Boulevard toward Price Boulevard, before turning back and making their way back to the Veterans Park to start over again.
The event was organized by Brownsville resident Josue F. Valdez, a former U.S. Army serviceman and member of Open Carry Texas (OCT). His intent was to spread the news that HB 1927 is officially in effect and inform people about what they can and can’t do under the law in relation to carrying handguns publicly or concealed.
Valdez has been licensed for open carry since it became law in 2016 he said, but is excited to spread awareness for residents to educate themselves about their abilities to now carry a handgun.
HB 1927, referred to as the “constitutional carry” law, was authored by Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown. It allows for permitless carry of handguns in public for persons 21 years and older in the state of Texas.
The new law — which came into effect Sept. 1 — allows public or concealed carry of handguns by anyone of age, as long as they aren’t otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm by law, such as people with felony or domestic violence convictions.
Though it’s not required for carrying a handgun, the Texas Department of Public Safety has posted two free overview videos for a course on firearm safety and handling under the Firearm Carry Act on their website at https://www.dps.texas.gov/section/training-operations-tod/firearm-carry-act.
While people can legally carry handguns, peace officers are allowed to disarm anyone in the lawful discharge of their official duties under the law when necessary.
Businesses and private property owners also have the right to prohibit people from open or concealed carry of handguns by posting officially approved signs, known as “30.05”, which refers to the Texas Penal Code chapter for criminal trespass.
“That’s the new one, I haven’t seen it yet, but those should start appearing everywhere,” Valdez said.
On Aug. 30 the Brownsville Police Department posted a public service announcement about the law on their Facebook page and informed residents that they were still not allowed to carry firearms in: schools, school activities; school buses, voting places, courts or offices used by the court, racetracks, airports past security, bars, sporting events (High School, College or Professional etc.), correctional facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or governmental open meetings if notice is provided.
For Valdez, the importance of the expansion to the state’s gun laws with this recent addition is partially due to his right to exercise the Second Amendment, but also to his desire to be of help to his community in a crisis if something should happen and the police aren’t available.
“I would take it as my duty to go ahead and defend a third party. Mainly I carry to defend myself and my family and secondly, for the people that need to be defended if I’m there,” Valdez said.
Above all, Valdez hopes that seeing his group and their signs will help spread awareness about the law and push people to seek out more information about how to exercise their gun rights under state law.
“A polite society is an armed society,” said Valdez. He chuckled and then added, “or an armed society is a polite society.”