Austin State Hospital, the oldest psychiatric hospital in Texas, has taken down its signs banning guns. The move is in line with the state’s new firearms law which allows the open carry of guns in state psychiatric hospitals.

10 days on from the enactment of the new open carry gun law and the real impact is being felt.

Mental Health advocates have condemned the law, saying it could negatively impact patients’ treatments and could lead to an increase in suicide rates.

Greg Hansch, the public policy director of the Texas branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said his group is opposed to people bringing guns onto the grounds of state psychiatric hospitals, arguing that “it fosters fear and will be detrimental to the recovery of persons receiving treatment.”

Hansch added that he is worried that allowing guns in mental hospitals will make it easier for suicidal people to kill themselves. Of the roughly 30,000 gun deaths in the US each year, around two-thirds are ruled suicide, he said.

Licensed gun owners can now bring their firearms into all 10 psychiatric hospitals operated by the state of Texas as the result of a loophole that was not closed when the new law passed last summer, according to the Austin American-Statesman’s report .

Psychiatric institutions are not subject to the same exemption as general hospitals because they are in a different section of the state’s health and safety code.

Kirk Watson, a Democratic state senator, said the amendment he proposed to address the loophole was shut down without a debate.

Texas is now the largest state to allow a version of open carry – California, Florida, Illinois, New York and South Carolina still ban the practice.

Guns can be shown in open view but must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster.

Nearly 914,000 Texans ‒ or almost 4 percent of the state’s 27 million residents ‒ have a current license to concealed carry firearms, according to Forth Worth Star-Telegram, citing the Texas DPS. That’s up from 826,000 in 2014.

Courtesy: RT