Saturday, December 30, 2017

Attorney General: Carry of Guns in Church Protected by Texas Law

In 1994 Texas passed a shall issue concealed carry law, reversing infringements on the Second Amendment going back to Reconstruction. As part of the passage of the bill opponents insisted on a large number of gun free zones, including churches. In the original statute, Penal Code Section 46.035 (b) (6), list one of the prohibited places as:
(6) on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship
Then, in 1997, the legislature decided that forbidding people from exercising their Second Amendment rights in church, was likely a violation of both the First and Second Amendments. The legislators added subsection (i). They should have simply removed subsection (b) (6), (b) (5), and (b) (4).
(i) Subsections (b)(4), (b)(5), (b)(6), and (c) do not apply if the actor was not given effective notice under Section 30.06 or 30.07.
The words "was not given effective notice" are an awkward English construction, leading to a small amount of confusion. Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion to clarify the meaning. He wanted people to know they could exercise their Second Amendment rights in church after the horrific church mass murder in Sutherland, Texas. 26 Church goers were killed before a neighbor used an AR15 rifle to stop the murder. The opinion was issued on December 21, 2017.  From
Licensed handgun owners can legally carry loaded weapons into Texas churches that do not have posted signs banning weapons, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a legal opinion released today. The opinion also clarified that a new law passed this year by the Legislature exempts churches from state fees for creating volunteer security teams.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick requested the opinion on December 1, and asked Attorney General Paxton to expedite his responses “so that churches may know what legal options they have to improve security” in the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs tragedy.

“If a church decides to exclude the concealed or open carrying of handguns on the premises of church property, it may provide the requisite notice, thereby making it an offense for a license holder to carry a handgun on those premises,” Attorney General Paxton wrote in his opinion. “However, churches may instead decide not to provide notice and to allow the carrying of handguns on their premises. Unless a church provides effective oral or written notice prohibiting the carrying of handguns on its property, a license holder may carry a handgun onto the premises of church property as the law allows.”

Senate Bill 2065, which took effect September 1, exempts churches from state fees private institutions must pay to form their own security forces. The lesiglature ended the fees because they imposed a significant financial burden on smaller churches, such as the one in Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed last month in Texas’ worst mass shooting.

“The regulations of the Private Security Act, including the fees required thereunder, do not apply to Texas churches when providing volunteer security services consistent with the requirements of section 1702.333 of the Occupations Code,” Attorney General Paxton concluded.
The opinion has been issued in time for Christmas services.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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