AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Licensed Texas gun owners can now carry a holstered pistol in public under an open-carry law that began midnight Friday.
Under the new law, nearly one million people in Texas who have passed safety courses and have concealed handgun permits will be allowed to open carry, a first in the state since 1871. Texas is now the most populous of more than 40 states that allow some form of open carry.
The law stipulates handguns must be carried in belt or shoulder holsters and police officers can ask to see a license to carry. Open carry is not allowed at schools, secured areas of airports, court rooms, hospital and governmental meetings and other locations. Already three grocery stores -- H-E-B, Safeway and Whole Foods -- have opted out of the law, saying only concealed weapons are allowed in the stores.
Supporters look at the law as a form of public safety, while opponents worry the new law is not written clearly. Law enforcement throughout the state have been hosting public meetings and informative talks to clarify the law and answer questions.
Tim Vasquez, president of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, said there will be a "huge learning curve" for law enforcement.
"Most of us do support concealed, but we also understand that open carry creates a whole new set of problems," Vasquez, chief of police in San Angelo, said. "If our officers see someone with an open carry, they do have the ability to stop and identify whether that person is permitted or not."