Texas allows the open carry of handguns - even in the state capitol

Texas is the largest state in the US that has allowed the open carry of handguns

Texas was far from being the first US state to allow licensed gun owners to carry a holstered pistol in public - but it is the largest.

As a result, as from January 1 2016, almost one million people in Texas who have passed safety courses and have concealed handgun permits, will be allowed to openly carry their weapons. It is the first time they have been able to do so since 1871. They will even be allowed to carry them in the state assembly building in Austin.

The Associated Press said that Republican-controlled Texas already allows openly carrying rifles and shotguns, but has banned having handguns visible since just after the Civil War. Texas had nearly 826,000 concealed licence holders in 2014, which ranks among the nation's highest.

Supporters of the new law held a rally at the state assembly in Austin

The new law stipulates that handguns must be carried in belt or shoulder holsters and that police officers can ask to see a licence to carry. This last regulation was only passed after after police groups defeated a provision backed by a coalition of conservatives and Democrats that sought to bar officers from asking residents to see their paperwork.

“I think most people can expect Friday to be just like Thursday,” CJ Grisham, a retired Army sergeant who formed Open Carry Texas to lobby for the change in the law, told the New York Times. “I think everybody is overreacting.”

Texas has long been seen as a gun-friendly place and it is the largest of more than 40 states that permit some sort of open carry. California, Florida, Illinois, New York and South Carolina still prohibit it.

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Open carry will not be permitted at schools, secured areas of airports, court rooms, hospital and government meetings, according to the new regulations. 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.

Open carry weapons are permitted, however, inside the state’s assembly building, or capitol, where licence holders can bypass metal detectors.

Tim Vasquez, president of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, said there would be a “huge learning curve” for officers on how to deal with the new law.

“Most of us do support concealed, but we also understand that open carry creates a whole new set of problems,” Mr Vasquez, chief of police in San Angelo, told the AP.

“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.”