The Texas statute allowing the open carrying of guns by licensed holders will become effective on January 1, 2016. Prior to this effective date, Texas hotel properties should consider following these three steps in an effort to comply with the law.
1. Update the Employee Handbook
Under the revised statute, a hotel may still prohibit its employees from carrying guns—whether in a concealed or open manner—while on hotel premises, in hotel vehicles, or in the course of a hotel’s business. A hotel’s policy on concealed or openly carried weapons should be set forth in the employee handbook and other personnel policy manuals. It is important to remember that while “premises” includes buildings and hotel vehicles, it does not include locked, personal vehicles in a hotel’s parking lot, garage, or other parking area. Under Texas law, an employee may lawfully store and transport firearms and ammunition in the trunk of a personal vehicle while the vehicle is in a hotel’s parking area.
The following is a sample handbook policy:
Employees of the Hotel are not permitted to carry (either openly or in a concealed manner) any firearms while on the Hotel’s premises, while at client work locations on Hotel business, while in Hotel vehicles, or while acting as a Hotel representative at any work-related activities, meetings, or functions. This prohibition against the possession or carrying of firearms applies even if the employee is licensed to carry a concealed handgun or to openly carry a handgun by the state of Texas. Employees are permitted to transport and store in a safe and discreet manner a legal firearm and ammunition in a personal vehicle while the vehicle is in the employee parking area. This policy is intended to comply with all applicable state laws concerning employee rights to possess and carry firearms and shall be interpreted and enforced accordingly.
In addition, while employees may lawfully store and transport a firearm in the trunk of a personal vehicle, the law does not allow them to talk about it or threaten to use it. Thus, hotels may want to consider including one additional provision in a handbook and/or policy manual:
Employees are prohibited from making any statements or actions that draw attention to the presence of a lawfully transported weapon or that threaten or intimidate other employees, clients, or visitors with regard to the employee’s lawful possession of a weapon.
2. Notice to Guests and Visitors
The revised statute allows hotels to prohibit licensed holders from entering a hotel with a concealed or openly carried weapon if notice of the prohibition is provided, either orally or in writing. Under Texas law, a posted written communication must contain the language set forth below, must be written in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height, and must be displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public. It should appear in both English and Spanish.
Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Texas Penal Code Annotated require two notices to be posted: one for concealed handguns and one for openly carried handguns. The following notice should be posted to inform those entering a hotel that they may not carry a concealed handgun on the premises:
PURSUANT TO SECTION 30.06, PENAL CODE (TRESPASS BY LICENSE HOLDER WITH A CONCEALED HANDGUN) A PERSON LICENSED UNDER SUBHAPTER H, CHAPTER 411, GOVERNMENT CODE (HANDGUN LICENSING LAW), MAY NOT ENTER THIS PROPERTY WITH A CONCEALED HANDGUN.
The following notice should be posted to inform those entering a hotel that they may not openly carry a handgun on the premises:
PURSUANT TO SECTION 30.07, PENAL CODE (TRESPASS BY LICENSE HOLDER WITH AN OPENLY CARRIED HANDGUN), A PERSON LICENSED UNDER SUPCHAPTER H, CHAPTER 411, GOVERNMENT CODE (HANDGUN LICENSING LAW), MAY NOT ENTER THIS PROPERTY WITH A HANDGUN THAT IS CARRIED OPENLY.
These signs must be posted at all public entrances or, if all visitors must pass by a single reception area despite multiple entrances, a single sign may be posted in the reception area. It is also recommended that signs be posted in areas where other employment-related notices are posted.
Verbal notice may be preferred by some hotel properties that do not want to post such signs. In that case, the hotel should consider printed cards with the required language that managers may distribute to guests who are being informed of the hotel’s policy.
3. Disclose Gun Policies at the Time of Reservation
Texas law also requires that any policy prohibiting a guest’s right to bring firearms onto a hotel premises be disclosed in the terms and conditions of guest reservations on the hotel’s website at the time a reservation is made. Under Texas Occupations Code § 2155.103 (2015), if a guest makes a reservation by phone, the hotel’s written confirmation of the reservation must include information about how guests may access and review the applicable gun policy.