Texas passed an open carry law in 2015 allowing firearms to be carried in hip or shoulder holsters. However, some agencies have challenged aspects of the law.
This month, a Travis district court ruled the city of Austin’s policy of banning the open carrying of firearms at its city hall violated the new law.
Officials in Austin argued the city’s ban was allowable under the law’s “government court” exception.
The court disagreed. The Texas Tribune reported the case considered the issue of whether certain government agencies are exempt from the open carry law.
The open carry law has an exemption. Guns are prohibited “on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court,” unless a written law or the individual court authorizes it.
Officials in Austin claimed the city hall fell under the exemption because court proceedings are conducted within it and the building contains an office for court personnel.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took issue with the city’s stance in 2016. He said a citizen complained about signs banning firearms. He sued Austin, arguing the city hall building does not fall under the exemption. The attorney general said officials should not post signs at the building banning licensed gun holders from carrying their firearms at the city hall. Paxton said at the time he filed the lawsuit:
“I will always make sure that governments do not trample on the Second Amendment rights of Texans, and if they do, we will sue.”
In the recent ruling, the court ordered the City of Austin to pay a $9,000 fine to the state. The penalty comprised of $1,500 for each day the city prevented investigators from the attorney general’s office from carrying their guns. The Tribune report stated it wasn’t clear if the city would appeal the ruling.
The city of Austin said in a statement it would continue to ban handguns from the city hall building when it is a polling station, hosts school activities, or courts and council meetings.
A city spokesman said these activities comply with the state Legislature’s conditions for restricting the carrying of handguns.
Under the Texas law, handguns must be in shoulder holsters or belts. The law does not require retention holsters, which use straps to secure the weapon.
A campus carry law came into effect at Texas universities on Aug. 1, 2016. It was extended to cover community colleges a year later. It allows permit holders to carry concealed handguns on campus and into buildings. The law does not permit open carry of guns.
Texas has liberal firearms laws but recent changes mean some law enforcement officers or agencies may be confused about their implementation. If you or a family member has been charged with a firearms offense, please contact our Dallas criminal defense team today.