With SB 273 (Unlawful exclusion of a CHL holder by a governmental entity) going into effect on September 1, 2015, the questions have begun to fly in regards to courthouses. Texas Carry would like to provide our members with the most accurate information possible so that you can make a good decision.
Here we get right to the heart of the issue. The law states in in Texas Penal code 46.03. PLACES WEAPONS PROHIBITED. (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon
(3) on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the court;
Note that it says premises of a courtroom. That is important as we do not believe the legislature intended to make the entire building of a courthouse off limits. Had that been the intent, the word “courthouse” would have been used. The other point of confusion is the definition of “premises”. In 46.035 (f)(3) it states: "Premises" means a building or a portion of a building. The term does not include any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area. While most will jump to the word building, we need to read the entire definition to understand the issue. It also states “portion of a building”. This clearly indicates that something can be in a building and be off limits while the entire building is not off limits. This is what we believe to be the case with courthouses and courtrooms.
Words have meaning and this is a very important distinction. With that, we would concur that if a building houses ONLY courtrooms or offices of the court then that entire building would be off limits. However, if there is any other office in the courthouse that the public may access then the entire building is not off limits. For example, many courthouses handle services such as getting your tags for your car, paying your taxes, getting property records and so on. These are not offices of the court and if a building houses these along with a courtroom then we are of the opinion that the entire building is not off limits. Therefore, a 30.06 posting at the entrance would be unlawful.
This is a very technical issue and we do not recommend testing that boundary at this time. There is already a pending request for an AG’s opinion of this issue. The opinion request is linked here: RQ-0040-KP. We warn you that there are some incorrect statements in the opinion request such as liquor stores being off limits. It’s scary when those that enforce the law do not even know it.