Texas courthouse gun bans reconsidered by state AG

Recent opinions by the attorney general of Texas has officials in charge of courthouses around the state rethinking gun bans.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has written several recent opinions relating to the state’s gun laws. Under a 2003 state law, firearms are prohibited in “the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court.” But Paxton defines “premises” narrowly, his December 21 opinion (PDF) made clear, reports WFAA television news in Dallas.

Rather than simply the area bounded by the courthouse walls, Paxton’s view of what premises include means “that people with a license to carry should be able to go into [the] courthouse in non-essential areas,” Shannon Edmonds, who serves as director of governmental relations at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told the station. “I think most counties don’t read the law that way, but some of them are taking steps to comply with the opinion, even if they don’t agree with it, because they don’t want to get sued.”

In September, the state legislature authorized the AG to sue government entities that ban firearms improperly in their buildings, and it appears from Paxton’s views on the definition of courthouse premises that they could potentially be subjects of enforcement, the article explains. The attorney general’s homepage has a prominent link for citizens to report government entities which may be unlawfully prohibiting concealed firearms.

In some courthouses, blanket bans will continue, officials have decided, while those in charge of other courthouses are determining in which areas of the buildings prohibitions on firearms will apply.

The potential changes to courthouse security rules have drawn criticism. Kaufman County, east of Dallas, is one county considering whether to allow guns inside areas of the courthouse. “There’s certain places—and I think a courthouse is one—where guns should not be allowed,” Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood told WFAA. “It has nothing to do with Second Amendment rights. It just has more to do, in my opinion, with common sense.”