On September 1, a new law went into effect in Texas that holds the government accountable for trying to illegally prohibit CHL holders from carrying their concealed handguns on government property. Texas Government Code § 411.209 says that a state agency or political subdivision may not provide notice with a 30.06 or other type of sign that a CHL holder carrying a concealed handgun is prohibited from entering or remaining on government property, unless that CHL holder is prohibited from carrying on the premises under Sections 46.03 or 46.035 of the Texas Penal Code. Basically, this means that if a government entity, such as a county or city, posts a 30.06 or other similar sign on their property to keep CHL holders out, the location must be one specifically listed in Texas Penal Code sections 46.03 or 46.035 – such as an airport, racetrack, or amusement park, to name a few.
If a sign is illegally posted, the state agency or political subdivision is liable for a money penalty of $1,000 – $1,500 for the first violation, and $10,000 – $10,500 for each violation afterwards. To drive the point home, each day of a continuing violation is considered a separate violation. So, if a county has a 30.06 sign illegally posted on its property for a week, the county can be liable for a potential penalty up to $64,500, with a minimum penalty of $61,000!
This new law is great news for CHL holders in Texas, many of whom may not have known that “no guns” signs they’ve seen on some government property are not actually legally effective, and that they have actually been legally entitled to carry their concealed handguns on the property for self-defense. Since 2003, Texas Penal Code 30.06, the statute that allows private property owners to prohibit concealed carry on their property, has prevented the government from posting 30.06 signs on certain property, but with a new penalty, state agencies will have to think twice about intimidating CHL holders.
Removal of 30.06 sign from the Houston Zoo
Earlier this month, Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker succeeded in getting the Houston Zoo to remove the unlawful 30.06 sign at its main entrance which had been posted illegally for more than 10 years. As a result of Mr. Walker’s complaint letter to the zoo, attorneys for the City of Houston determined that the City was in fact violating Texas law and removed the sign from the premises. The Houston Zoo is located on City-owned property, and zoos are not included in the list of locations where a state agency or political subdivision may lawfully post a 30.06 sign under sections 46.03 or 46.035 of the Penal Code.
The Houston Zoo isn’t the only location where a questionable 30.06 sign has been posted. Many of our members have brought it to our attention that there may be other zoos in the state that have posted questionable 30.06 signs at their main entrances. It turns out that the 30.06 signs posted near the main entrances to the Dallas and Ft. Worth zoos may be illegal, and therefore potentially subject the cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth to the substantial monetary penalties above.
A quick look at each of the zoos’ websites reveals that they prohibit concealed carry on their property. But are they immune from the new law? It is likely they are not. On its website, the Dallas Zoo claims that it is exempt from Texas Penal Code subsection 30.06(e) because it is both an “amusement park” and an “educational institution.” The Fort Worth Zoo claims that anyone looking to open or concealed carry on the property will be disappointed because both section 30.06 and the soon-to-be instituted section 30.07 (which will allow property owners to prohibit open carry) apply to the property. An examination of the statutes, however, reveals that these claims may not hold up legally. Let’s look at the claims of the Dallas Zoo first.
Both educational institutions and amusement parks are locations where a governmental entity may legally post a 30.06 sign. Educational institutions are mentioned in Penal Code section 46.03 and amusement parks are mentioned in section 46.035. If the Dallas Zoo is in fact an educational institution or amusement park, it might be legally entitled to keep out CHL holders carrying a concealed handgun with a 30.06 sign. As far as being an “educational institution”, there is no definition of the term found in the Texas Codes and Statutes which would apply to the Dallas Zoo. They do not offer any academic degrees, nor any course of study, so this claim is questionable at best.
Likewise, the Dallas Zoo claims that it is an “amusement park” based on the definition of amusement park found in Texas Penal Code section 46.035(f)(1). While this claim holds more weight than the claim to educational institution status, inevitably it will be up to the Texas Attorney General to decide if it is proper to consider a zoo an “amusement park” for purposes of the statute, and thus let it keep concealed handguns off of the property with a 30.06 sign. As for Fort Worth, the case is much more clear-cut. Also located on city-owned land, the Fort Worth Zoo has no claim to being either an “educational institution,” nor an “amusement park” under Texas Penal Code section 46.035(f)(1).
What We’re Doing About It
Gun rights for Texas gun owners are too important to just speculate about! To that end, Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorneys have sent a complaint letter to the Dallas Zoo demanding that the noncompliant 30.06 sign be removed from the entrance. The next course of action will be a complaint letter sent to the Attorney General. If the Attorney General determines that the City of Dallas is in violation of Texas law, the Zoo must either remove the sign or face the monetary penalties listed above. We will keep you posted on further developments in this ongoing fight for our gun rights!
In the meantime, enjoy the zoos but be mindful of the signage posted in Dallas and Fort Worth. Until the matter is settled, you may not want to be that test case that challenges the cities and their interpretation of the law. Remember, you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride.
Any person can give written notice to the governmental entity, along with a picture of the sign showing where it is located on the building. If the entity refuses to take the sign down, you can then give the copy of your written letter and picture to the Attorney General, who can fine the governmental entity. If you would like a re-usable version of a takedown request, written by Texas Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker and used to get the Houston Zoo to takedown their sign, please click here.