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Texas AG Sues a Houston County to Allow Concealed Firearms on Courthouse Premises

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(Photo: Julio Cortez, Houston Chronicle)

(Photo: Julio Cortez, Houston Chronicle)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing a rural, Houston-area county for displaying signs outside its courthouse that prohibit carrying firearms on its premises.

Paxton is bringing the suit under a year-old law—Texas Government Code § 411.209—that bars “state agencies or political subdivisions” from posting signs that prohibit concealed handgun holders. Paxton has also sued the city of Austin for violating that law, and that case is pending.

“A local government cannot be allowed to flout Texas’s licensed carry laws, or any state law, simply because it disagrees with the law or doesn’t feel like honoring it,” Paxton said in a statement Tuesday. “I will vigilantly protect and preserve the Second Amendment rights of Texans.”

Paxton notified county officials earlier this year that they had 15 days to comply with the law or face legal action. But Waller County Judge Trey Duhon refused, arguing that he is adhering to Texas state law and reiterating his desire to have the law clarified in court.

“We fully expected [the suit] to be filed, and we look forward to a hearing on the merits,” Duhon told the Los Angeles Times. “We believe we are fully complying with what the Texas Legislature intended.”

“We are anxious to have the issue resolved by the courts so that all Texans can be safe and sure about the law,” Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis added.

It is true that Texas law is unclear on this issue. The statute Paxton references in his suit (§ 411.209) is straightforward enough, but there is another law—Texas Penal Code § 46.03—that specifically allows firearms to be prohibited “on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court.”

Paxton argues that, while Judge Duhon has the right to ban firearms in his courtroom, he does not have the right to ban firearms in the entirety of the Waller County courthouse, which also houses the offices of independent county officials.

“The county treasurers’ offices and county elections’ offices do not qualify as offices utilized by a government court,” Paxton’s office said in a press release.

Waller County officials remain unconvinced. District Attorney Mathis told the Wall Street Journal that Paxton is “just plain wrong in his interpretation of the law.”

The security risks, Mathis continued, are far too great.  The “courtroom doors are made out of glass and that’s not going to stop a bullet,” Mathis told The Associated Press. Courtrooms, he said, are the scene of emotionally charged cases that have been known to erupt in violence: “people tried for murder, molesting children, victim’s families and people involved in family law disputes.”

The latest suit seeks a fine of $1,500 for each day the county doesn’t allow licensed gun owners to carry weapons in the courthouse.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Rick September 9, 2016, 8:47 pm

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton…..We need more like him…..True America….

  • pete September 9, 2016, 11:17 am

    Weapons do not belong inside court houses. Period. That’s the place where DV victims and perps go to their hearings, where conflicts of all kinds are dealt with, where people of all kinds are often at their most emotional states. JHC what are people thinking that everyone should have their guns with them!? How stupidly dangerous. They don’t call us gun nuts for nothing!

    • Gary September 9, 2016, 12:42 pm

      If banning guns and posting that sign prevents a active shooter, then lets just post signs for everything everywhere and fire all the cops. Would you feel safer then? Did you see the recent video of the bailiff getting shot first and then the rest were just sheep at the slaughter? I bet half the judges carry under that robe. Those laws and signs dont prevent anything, its just a way to add a few years to your sentence when its all over, of course we let them out early anyway because they pleabargained for a lesser crime or for good behavior. Wake up to reality!

    • mr September 13, 2016, 1:15 pm

      pete – you miss the whole point. The only thing that stops a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun. If someone with ill intent brings a gun into what is enforced as a “gun free zone” then the first shot goes to the armed LEO that is closest and then the second one goes to the victim followed by anyone that gets in the way. The best deterrent is to ban “gun free zones” and keep those with ill intent on the defensive and at least give them pause that they will die trying and possibly before they fulfill there goal and get their 15 mins of fame. The 2nd Amendment is NOT conditional based on either your preferences of that of the city of Austin or the county of wherever.

  • Robert D Floyd September 9, 2016, 10:17 am

    Hardeman County Texas courthouse has the same sign on the doors. They are printed on standard letter size paper and obviously copied from the County Judges office, or who ever decided to take the second Amendment rights away from its citizens.

  • Tom Horn September 6, 2016, 9:59 pm

    Why isn’t Ken Paxton running for President. He sure has plenty of common sense.

    • DRAINO September 8, 2016, 7:25 am

      HERE, HERE!!!!

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