Earlier this month, a lawyer affiliated with Texas Law Shield, a firearms legal services firm that contributes material to the Shooter’s Log, sent a demand letter to a number of organizations affiliated with the Houston Zoo—the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Houston Zoo Development Corp., and the Houston Zoo itself—asking them to remove an illegal 30.06 sign posted at the Zoo’s main entrance.
Written by Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker, the letter said the improperly-posted Houston Zoo sign did not comply with the new Texas Government Code § 411.209 and was illegally posted on city-owned property for over ten years, leading CHL holders to believe they couldn’t carry on the property, when in fact, it was completely legal.
Walker wrote in the letter, “Texas Penal Code §30.06(e) renders 30.06 signs posted on property owned or leased by a governmental entity invalid. However, the problem with this is that for years there has been no penalty for posting an invalid sign. This allowed many governmental entities (including the Houston Zoo) to illegally post 30.06 signs, supposedly providing notice that concealed carry on the property was prohibited, despite the fact that the signs were not legally effective, and the government could not legally prohibit concealed carry on the premises.
“Thankfully, the recent legislative session added Texas Government Code § 411.209, which contains a penalty for any state agency or political subdivision of the state (such as a city) that wrongfully attempts to exclude a concealed handgun license holder from premises or property owned or leased by a governmental entity. This new law became effective September 1, 2015.”
The first day the law went into effect, Walker immediately sent written notice to the Houston Zoo and its affiliated agencies to inform them that the sign posted at the main zoo entrance was improper, and that the city should remove it or it would face the penalties specified in the new law.
After reviewing Walker’s complaint, the City instructed the Houston Zoo to remove the 30.06 sign, allowing CHL holders to now carry their concealed handguns into the zoo without being unjustly intimidated and fearful that they are breaking the law.
In Texas, a 30.06 sign can be used by a business owner to prohibit a CHL holder from bringing a firearm into business. The signs refer to Texas Penal Code 30.06, which forbids CHL holders from bringing firearms into locales with 30.06 signs in plain sight at the entrance or a “conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.”
Though the zoo is privately owned, it sits on property owned by the City of Houston. Accordingly, it is not a place where firearms or concealed handguns may be prohibited under Texas Penal Code §46.03 or §46.035.
State and local governments that prevent those legally licensed to carry a concealed weapon on most of their public property can face a $1,500 daily fine for continuing to display the gun ban signs. A second violation carries a fine of more than $10,000 fine each day the signs remain.
“I think the city of Houston should apologize to CHL holders for violating their rights for the past dozen years,” Walker told KTRK-TV in Houston.
Walker believes there are other public buildings, possibly including courthouses and police stations, that may also be in violation. He says there are a million concealed-handgun license holders in Texas.
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