What Are Dallas, Texas' Gun Laws? They Are Confusing, But Pretty Liberal

The gun control debate in the United States continues to be a controversial discussion, especially as more gun-related murders happen across the country. Gun laws vary state to state, but in the wake of the horrific Dallas protest shooting on Thursday night, you might be wondering: What are Dallas' gun laws? They are confusing, but pretty liberal, and they're set to change on Aug. 1.

Open carry became legal in the state of Texas on Jan. 1, 2016, and concealed carry on college campuses will take effect at the beginning of August. Approximately 937,000 people (about 4 percent of the state's 27 million residents) have a license to carry. Those nearly 1 million people could openly carry their licensed handguns starting just this year, but many have had confusion about when and where they are permitted to do so.

Gun laws in Dallas allow licensed gun owners to openly carry their handguns wherever they were previously permitted under the state's concealed carry laws. However, Dallas' gun laws are confusing in a few ways. The laws aren't clear on whether or not open carry is legal in churches or college campuses, particularly when school isn’t in session; the regulations regarding bringing guns into businesses haven't been easily understood, especially since business can make their own rules in some cases; and whether law enforcement or businesses can ask for a license inside their stores.

Guns aren’t allowed in certain locations such as courtrooms, election sites, and schools while children are present. Similarly, businesses have the option to post a sign outside of their building if they don't want guns carried on their premises.

In the past, licensed gun owners were allowed to carry their handguns onto college campuses, but not into the buildings. But that all changed last year when lawmakers passed campus carry, which changed gun laws to allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns at public universities, as well as at any private university that doesn’t prohibit handguns. The law will also go into effect for community colleges next year.

Dallas' gun laws became part of the conversation when at least four officers were killed at a protest in downtown Dallas on Thursday evening. The protest was organized to peacefully demonstrate in honor of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men who were killed by police officers earlier this week. Some of the licensed attendees at the protest were openly carrying their weapons, and many of them reportedly turned their guns over to local police once the shooting happened.