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Austin Police Expect More Phone Calls When Open Carry Goes into Effect – A Lot More

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Michael Tefft/Texas Tribune
The state's open carry law will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Open carry of handguns will be legal in Texas starting in 2016. The Austin Police Department has been prepping for the fact that, most likely, more people will be carrying holstered guns in public view.

Officer Michael Barker, who briefed the Public Safety Commission yesterday, said APD expects more 9-1-1 calls.

“There may be times where citizens are not doing anything, they’re just walking down the street,” Barker said. “But somebody sees them open carrying, and they call into 9-1-1.”

If someone’s brandishing that gun – that is, if taken it out of its holster – that’s a “gun hotshot” call and the highest priority, Barker said in a briefing on the department’s protocols for the law, which takes effect in the new year. If someone calls 9-1-1 because someone’s simply carrying openly, that’s a lower priority.

“A gun is being displayed openly, but it’s not being handled, it’s not being brandished, or it's not being used in a threatening manner, and the weapon holder is not involved in a disturbance, then that would be a gun urgent type call,” Barker says.

If someone is openly carrying near what APD calls “vulnerable facilities” – places like schools, religious institutions or sports arenas – that’s considered urgent. While APD expects a hike in the number of calls to 9-1-1, open carry poses at least one asset from an officer’s perspective.

“The fact that someone’s open-carrying, the officer now has the advantage of knowing that they’re dealing with someone that’s armed instead of it just being unknown at that point, and so they’ll be that much more vigilant,” says APD Chief of Staff Brian Manley.

The open carry law goes into effect Jan. 1.

The department will return to the Public Safety Commission next summer to brief them on officer training in the lead up to campus carry, which goes into effect on all public university campuses next August.

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