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Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Open Carry

The Aqib Talib Case Shows There Are Still Lots of Ways to Break Gun Laws in Texas

An investigation into whether the Denver Broncos player illegally carried a firearm into a club underscores that new open carry legislation has limits.

Much of the coverage of Texas gun laws in the last year has focused on the loosening of restrictions on where, and how, people can carry firearms in public. But carrying an unlicensed firearm in public, and bringing a gun into a bar, are still crimes in the Lone Star State — possibly spelling legal trouble for a Denver Broncos player who is being investigated for his role in a shooting at a Dallas strip club on Sunday morning.

Aqib Talib, a cornerback for the NFL team, was shot, as were two other people, at or near the V Live strip club in Dallas around 3:40 a.m. early Sunday morning. Talib was wounded by a bullet that hit his right thigh and exited through his calf.

The full story of what happened at the nightclub has not emerged. Talib has claimed the shooting happened in a park near the club, but a video shows shots fired inside the venue. Dallas police have said Talib was the victim of an “aggravated assault,” but a Denver news station reported that Talib told friends that he accidentally shot himself. Dallas police and the NFL are investigating the incident.

Since January 1, Texas has allowed people with concealed weapon permits to also openly carry firearms in public. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, more than 900,000 Texans (out of of 27 million) with concealed carry licenses were freed to carry openly by the new law.

The controversial law drew protests and criticism from gun control advocates. (Some gun rights backers even worried it was driving businesses to post signs explicitly barring firearms from their premises.)

But penalties for people who openly carry guns without a license or into bars remain in force. (Texans also can’t carry guns in federal buildings, schools, jails, racetracks, airports, and polling places).

It is a third-degree felony to carry a gun in an establishment that earns money primarily by serving alcohol, a crime punishable by two to 10 years in prison. Carrying a firearm in public without a license is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500, and one year in jail. The state also limits those who openly carry a gun to two toting options: shoulder holsters, or belt holsters.

Talib reportedly told police he was “too intoxicated to remember what happened” in the incident at the strip club. That’s also a potential problem for the football player: Carrying a gun while drunk is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Reports that Talib shot himself drew comparisons to Plaxico Burress, a former New York Giants wide receiver who shot himself in the leg at a New York nightclub in 2008, then served 20 months in prison for carrying a firearm without license. That incident heightened awareness of the prevalence of guns in the NFL, and the problems they can pose for players. The story hasn’t gone away: In April, former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith was shot to death in an apparent traffic dispute in the city. (Saints coach Sean Payton made headlines after the fact by saying he “hates guns.”)

This isn’t the first time Talib has been connected to a shooting. In 2011, Talib was charged for assault with a deadly weapon after he pistol-whipped and fired shots at his sister’s live-in boyfriend in Garland, Texas. Prosecutors later dropped the charges.

Though Texas lawmakers have relaxed some restrictions on where people can carry guns — “campus carry” will be allowed at public universities in the state come August 1 — Curtis Van Liew, a concealed handgun license instructor based in Fort Worth, said people visiting the state should not expect to encounter the Wild West.

“I’ve seen plenty of idiots in the state of Texas,” he said. “There’s some of them that just don’t need to carry a gun, period. I’m all for my constitutional rights, but you have to soften a little bit. You have to be reasonable.”

[Photo: AP/Jack Dempsey]