Texas allows rifles to be toted publicly, but not in manner 'calculated to alarm'

Investigators near a police cruiser parked in Dallas at Baylor University Medical Center, July 8, 2016. Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas, killing several officers. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Investigators near a police cruiser parked in Dallas at Baylor University Medical Center, July 8, 2016. Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas, killing several officers. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Dallas police officers escort residents near the scene where eleven Dallas police officers were shot on July 7, 2016 in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Dallas police officers escort residents near the scene where eleven Dallas police officers were shot on July 7, 2016 in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

What happened overnight in Dallas reminded us it's legal for Texans to openly carry rifles in public.

However, it's illegal to brandish any gun in a "manner calculated to alarm."

We got into this topic in June 2014 after Mike Hashimoto, an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, took exception to Texans strolling around with rifles in a commentary, describing them as "chuckleheads strapping on their long rifles and marching into the local Chipotle or Chili’s or Home Depot. Whatever point they may have about gun-owner rights or Texas law they drown in look-at-me stupidity."

Hashimoto kicked us into action with this factual claim: "Public display of a long rifle is perfectly legal in Texas."

Really?

To our inquiry, the legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association, Alice Gene Tripp, told us the Texas penal code restricts handguns, but it’s silent per toting long rifles and shotguns. Tripp pointed us to Section 46.02 of the code.

By email, Hashimoto also singled out that section, saying it put limits on handguns, illegal knives and clubs, among specific weapons, not mentioning long rifles or shotguns. "From discussing this over the years with law enforcement officials, my understanding is that rifles and shotguns, therefore, were legal for open carry in Texas," Hashimoto said. "I've not questioned that understanding recently, as open-carry demonstrations have become more common, yet demonstrators, generally, have not been arrested for unlawfully carrying weapons."

Section 46.02 states it’s at least a Class A misdemeanor if a person "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun, illegal knife, or club if the person is not on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control or in or directly en route to a motor vehicle"(including a recreational vehicle "or boat they own or control."

Finally, we contacted Jerry Patterson, the state land commissioner who as a state senator authored the 1995 law enabling Texans to carry concealed handguns with state permits.

By email, Patterson said: "Long gun ‘open carry’ has never been unlawful in Texas to my knowledge. How do you use a shotgun or rifle if you can't carry it openly?‎ Would you have to wrap it up if you placed it in your pickup gun rack?" Still, he pointed out  out section 42.01 (a) (8) of the penal code, which states a person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly "displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm."