The Stock Show may feel a little more like the Wild West this year, courtesy of state law.
With the right to openly carry handguns becoming legal Jan. 1, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, like many other major events, is grappling with its ramifications.
At the Stock Show, which begins Friday and runs through Feb. 6, officials say guns will be allowed — but with limitations. The Stock Show is held at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, which is owned by the city of Fort Worth.
“Our attorneys, our legal counsel consulted with the city’s attorneys,” said Matt Brockman, publicity manager for the Stock Show. “It is our intent to comply with the law.”
With safety in mind, open carry won’t be allowed everywhere.
For example, the display of handguns won’t be allowed at any professional rodeo (PRCA) events, which run from Jan. 19 to Feb. 6, because state law says so.
But those restrictions don’t apply to the Best of the West Ranch Rodeo, Best of Mexico or Cowboys of Color rodeos on the opening weekend since they are amateur events.
The biggest impact will likely be for the multitude of 4-H and FFA events at the Stock Show, such as the junior livestock shows. When students have their animals in the livestock barns, open carry won’t be allowed. Nor will open carry be allowed at the annual Sale of Champions, when the top junior winners are auctioned off before a rowdy crowd.
But it’s OK to open carry at the Amon G. Carter Exhibits Hall and the carnival Midway.
Signs will be posted in areas where guns are not allowed, officials said.
“People will have to be cognizant of the schedule and comply,” Brockman said. “… The schedule is readily available to everybody.”
Other areas where guns won’t be permitted include the Coors Light Roadhouse and the Backstage Club.
The same rules apply to those with concealed carry licenses, Brockman said.
Stock Show officials will work with their pistol-packing patrons.
“We’ll let them take their gun back to the vehicle and come back in,” Brockman said. “We'll try to accommodate them.”
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, the Stock Show’s vice president, said he hasn't heard concerns from constituents about carrying guns at the Stock Show.
“I think we carefully crafted the rules so no firearms will be allowed in areas with 51 percent of alcohol sales, the rodeo or junior sporting events,” he said. “It will be allowed in common areas such as the Midway and exhibit halls.”
The number of Texans with licenses to carry handguns grew to nearly 914,000 last year, or nearly 4 percent of Texas’ 27 million residents, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.
From churches to grocery stores, the issue of where people can open carry has been a hot topic since Jan. 1.
The State Fair of Texas, which runs annually in September and October at Fair Park in Dallas, will also allow open carry. But like the Stock Show, there will be restrictions.
“State Fair of Texas’ policy will be similar to our policy for Concealed Handgun License Holders,” State Fair spokeswoman Karissa Condoianis said in a statement. “The State Fair of Texas leases property owned by the City of Dallas and does not fall into any of the exception categories (amusement park, etc.) that would allow us to prohibit the carrying of handguns, so we will be allowing ‘open carry’ according to the Texas statutes. However, we will still prohibit handguns in the Cotton Bowl Stadium under the collegiate athletic event exception.”
The Fort Worth Zoo, which is also housed on city-owned property, has said it’s licensed as a day-care facility as a reason to prohibit guns, said spokeswoman Alexis Wilson.
The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, which begins Feb. 11, will continue its policy of banning firearms, said spokeswoman Kim Hinze.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which starts March 1 and is held on property owned by Harris County, isn’t ready to say how it will handle open carry.
“We don’t have any information at this time,” said Sarah Poole, a spokeswoman with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Staff writer Anna Tinsley contributed to this report.
Open carry and the Stock Show
Any firearms carried onto Stock Show grounds are subject to all applicable state and federal laws. Texas law allows a person licensed to carry their handgun onto the City of Fort Worth-owned Stock Show grounds except for the following areas where handguns are prohibited:
▪ Will Rogers Coliseum when professional rodeo events are taking place (Jan. 19-Feb. 6).
▪ Any livestock barn or other building or portion of a building where FFA, 4-H or other high school, collegiate or interscholastic event in taking place.
▪ The Coors Light Roadhouse and Reata at the Backstage Club.
Source: Stock Show, V.T.C.A Penal Code §46.035(b)