New gun laws go into effect statewide in 2016Two new gun laws are going into effect in 2016, expanding the rights of gun owners to carry in public places and on public college and university campuses.

Handgun license holders can openly carry firearms as of Jan. 1, and concealed carry will be allowed on four-year college campuses starting Aug. 1. Both laws were passed in the 2015 legislative session.

While the concealed carry law allows licensed holders to have a handgun concealed somewhere on their person, open carry legislation allows for carrying a handgun in a shoulder or belt holster. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there are 825,957 license holders as of Dec. 31, 2014.

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said his office has taken a number of measures to spread awareness about how the laws will work. Initiatives include producing a series of educational videos, adding a FAQ to the department’s website and distributing informational handouts. A town hall meeting to answer questions is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Northwoods Presbyterian Church, 3320 FM 1960, Houston.

“There are a lot of discussions occurring, and the sheriff’s office anticipates many questions and concerns,” Hickman said. “We are working hard to assist people in any way we can.”

Texas Restaurant Association spokesperson Wendy Woodland said more than 100 restaurant owners participated in a November webinar detailing open carry laws. Any establishment that draws more than half its business from alcohol sales must automatically ban firearms, Woodland said.

“So if you have 48 percent alcohol sales, you can choose to allow open or concealed handgun holders,” she said.

H-E-B already permits concealed carry, but the grocer will not permit open handgun carry, spokesperson Leslie Lockett said.

In preparation for campus carry laws, officials with Lone Star College System have been assessing the financial, staffing and social effects the legislation could have on faculty and students.

The legislation would allow handguns in dormitories, classrooms and campus buildings. Although the law goes into effect in August, it will not apply to community colleges such as LSCS until August 2017.