“Open carry” is now legal in 44 out of 50 U.S. states. That means a person can publicly carry a firearm in plain sight. However, there is a lot of confusion among venue professionals concerning the law in their states. One thing, though, is clear.

“Venue managers prefer to prohibit open carry in their buildings,” wrote the researchers of the “2016 Firearms in the Venue” study conducted by VenueDataSource. “While 66 percent indicated that their state allows Permissive, Licensed, or May-Issue open carry, only 14 percent would allow this if they had a choice. In fact, fully 61 percent would not allow firearms in the venue at all if they had a choice.”

The 2016 Firearms Survey was conducted May 3-31, 2016, comprising 213 completed surveys from 960 International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) organizations in the U.S.

The Laws of Confusion

“There were many instances of venue managers in the same state providing different answers regarding their state open carry laws,” the researchers wrote. “While we expect a few such instances, the magnitude that we observed may indicate that there is a great deal of confusion in interpretation of state laws, either because of lack of awareness among the venue managers, or because of the confusion caused by the state law itself.”

For example, of the 41 states included in the survey, there were 13 times that three different answers were provided by venue professionals in the same state to a question about open carry laws.

State or local prohibition on open carry laws in licensed liquor establishments adds to the confusion.

“At 79 venues where liquor is served and state or local laws prohibit open carry in such buildings, 41 percent must still allow Permissive, Licensed, or May-Issue open carry in the building,” the researchers wrote.

Impact on Operations

Another question the researchers asked was if enacted laws in the last five years had a direct impact on venue operations.

“Among the 123 venue managers that said their state did enact firearms legislation in the past five years, a sizeable 46 percent felt that this did have an impact on their building operations, and 54 percent said it did not,” the researchers wrote.

According to the study, half (50 percent) of respondents said they needed to take action because of the enacted laws. These actions included increased visibility and security personnel training. Of course, this increased operational costs.

“Of the 50 venues that incurred cost, 60 percent said it was less than $10,000, 20 percent said from $10,000 to $50,000, and 20 percent that it exceeded $50,000,” the researchers wrote. “The average additional cost is $49,000, the median is $5,000.”

Next Steps

One item the venue management industry needs to consider is defining what qualifies as a venue and what events can be excluded from the open carry laws.

“Texas law automatically prohibits concealed and open carry ‘on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place’,” said one IAVM member. “As important as it is to hear from major league sports and their venues as it relates to this topic, they have it ‘easy’ in the sense that, at least in Texas, open and concealed carry are automatically prohibited at professional sports and have been for 20 years.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Commercial Facilities Sector Specific Plan divides the sector into eight subsector communities, including the Public Assembly Subsector.

“The subsector includes assets where a larger number of people congregate: convention centers, auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, movie theaters, and cultural properties (e.g., museums, zoos, planetariums, aquariums, libraries, and performance venues,” the DHS reports.

However, the term “venue” is not defined and can include outdoor event spaces, such as “fairs, exhibitions, parades, and 564 amusement and theme parks.”

Collaborating with other organizations is another action that will help lessen confusion about the laws and put everyone on the same page.

“I personally do not believe in cpen carry at sporting venues or protests, especially in lieu of recent events,” said James F. Hughes, director of the North Texas Crime Commission. “I know several North Texas Chiefs feel the same as I do.  It is confusing for law enforcement and may cause alarm among attendees at the events.”

IAVM’s Director of Education, Mark Herrera, currently participates and interacts with the Texas Crime Commission to assure that the association provides best practices regarding life safety as it pertains to the venue industry.

“Whereby IAVM advocate for a person’s Second Amendment Rights, we should also understand the importance of assuring that those attending events, whether large or small, are afforded the opportunity to feel comfortable in attending any and all events,” Herrera said.

IAVM is currently working on establishing data through research and member feedback regarding the new open carry laws to determine what is reasonable when open carry becomes part of various crowd dynamics at any public gathering. FM

(Image: ARTS_fox1fire/Creative Commons)