In response to the new open carry gun law, Wal-Mart is asking its superstore employees to verify the validity of gun licenses of anyone who comes into the business carrying a weapon.

Wal-Mart has directed any employee who sees someone carrying a handgun to contact the highest ranking supervisor in the store, who would then check if the gun owner had a valid license to carry the gun in public, Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick said.

“Our policy in all of our stores across the country is to comply with the local, state and federal laws when it comes to firearms,” Nick said. “There wasn’t anything from our policy that changed. It was just because of the local laws on the books. With liquor licenses, if a business is aware of a firearm, it is incumbent for us to make sure it is licensed.”

The policy affects Wal-Mart superstores that sell alcohol. The decision to enforce compliance came down in light of a state code that has been a part of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s rules for years. The relevant portion of the code says that any business that sells alcohol will have its alcohol sales license revoked if it is determined that the business let an unlicensed gun owner bring a weapon into the store, TABC spokesman Chris Porter said.

The TABC isn’t mandating those businesses to check licenses, but Porter said the agency would initiate an investigation and the process to revoke a business’s license if they learned of a violation.

“To me, it’s humorous,” said Driftwood rancher Mike Cox, who teaches concealed handgun license classes. “You’re putting a lot of burden and risk on a low-paid employee.”

What Wal-Mart is doing appears to be trying to cover all its bases. Concealed carry has been allowed inside Wal-Mart stores for years, and employees have plausible deniability when it comes to knowing about any unlicensed handguns brought into stores that would be hidden from view.

Wal-Mart is the only company among the area’s largest grocers that has no stated opposition to open carry. H-E-B, Randall’s and Whole Foods aren’t allowing handguns to be openly displayed in their stores. And Target has asked gun owners to not bring weapons inside the business.

Alice Tripp, legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association, said reactions like Wal-Mart’s are reminiscent of the hysteria over concealed handguns when they became legal in Texas in 1995.

“Signs went up, customers complained, and the signs came down,” Tripp said.

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