What to know about 'constitutional carry' now that it's in effect

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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A big change has arrived for gun laws in the state of Texas.

Starting Sept. 1, Texans who legally own a firearm can carry it openly, without a permit. The state is joining 19 others that no longer require permits.

It's the start of what is called "constitutional carry" in Texas, and the law upends the current rules for having a handgun.

Before, if you wanted to carry a firearm openly or concealed in the state, you had to get a license, submit your fingerprints, take a four-hour training course, and then pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test.

But now, anyone 21 years or older can carry a gun without a permit or training.

The only restriction is that you must be legally allowed to own a gun. That means you cannot have a felony or a conviction for domestic violence. The law also prohibits open carry if you are convicted of assault causing bodily injury, deadly conduct, terroristic threats or disorderly conduct with a firearm.

The law does require the Department of Public Safety to offer a free online gun safety course, but the course is not mandatory.

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The lack of training worries some, including those who run gun ranges. At least one in the Houston area is still going to offer training courses on gun safety and proper handling of a firearm.

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse. There are still rules on where you can and cannot carry, and constitutional carry does not grant any amnesty for those," Kyle Harrison with Top Gun said. "So if you walk into a place that is prohibited, you could potentially be charged with a crime."

Businesses that do not want guns inside had to post two signs before, in English and Spanish, excluding unlicensed firearm owners. However, the new law requires a third sign be displayed.

Some people in law enforcement are concerned the new law will become a big problem.

"Constitutional carry means anyone can carry a gun and we cannot question them, which should be a problem to everyone," President of the Houston Police Officers' Union Douglas Griffith said. "License to carry, conceal carry, we have no issues with that. It is allowing those untrained individuals to walk around with a firearm. It is detrimental to the entire public."

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