Handgun Opinion Broadly Interprets Law
The attorney general recently released Opinion No. GA-1051, relating to the carrying of a concealed handgun on school premises.
The Texas Penal Code expressly prohibits anyone (including a concealed handgun license [CHL] holder) from carrying a handgun on the premises of a high school interscholastic or sporting event. (“Premises” are defined as a “building or portion of a building,” but not including “any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area.”) However, another Penal Code provision allows a school board to adopt written regulations that authorize the carrying of weapons on school premises.
The opinion concludes that the second provision “trumps” the first, and that a school board can – pursuant to written regulations – authorize a school marshal or even an employee or trustee who possesses a CHL to carry on school premises. (Such regulations are commonly referred to as a “Guardian Plan.”)
How does this affect municipal authority? Only in one circumstance. The provisions analyzed in the opinion are specific to school district authority. The only analogous city provision relates to municipal court. It is very common, especially in smaller cities, to have city administration offices and municipal court offices in one building, and the Penal Code states that no person may carry a firearm “on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the court.”
The default rule when city hall and court offices are housed in one building is that the Penal Code prohibits anyone from carrying any firearm into that building. However, under the reasoning in the attorney general opinion, the municipal court could authorize certain people (e.g., those with CHLs) to carry there if it so desires.
This issue of "who can carry what firearms where" in Texas is complicated. A complete Q&A, along with an explanatory chart, is avilable on the "Legal Q&A" section of the TML website at http://www.tml.org/legal_topics-legal_QnA. (Scroll down to "Gun Regulation.")
Numerous bills to expand gun rights in Texas were filed last session, and it is a certainity that they will be back in 2015.