In the wake of the state’s worst mass shooting, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a legal opinion stating that people with a state License to Carry may bring a handgun into a church unless the institution has given visitors proper notice that firearms are banned from the premises. The ruling was designed to help provide legal options for improving church security.
The opinion had been requested by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick after a gunman killed 26 people on November 5 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, a tiny community outside San Antonio. A neighbor shot the gunman as he tried to flee, and a subsequent car chase ended when the man committed suicide. The incident sparked a debate over whether churches should have security, either professional or volunteer, to protect worshipers.
“If a church decides to exclude the concealed or open carrying of handguns on the premises of church property, it may provide the requisite notice, thereby making it an offense for a license holder to carry a handgun on those premises,” Paxton wrote in his official opinion. “However, churches may instead decide not to provide notice and to allow the carrying of handguns on their premises.”
“Unless a church provides effective oral or written notice prohibiting the carrying of handguns on its property, a license holder may carry a handgun onto the premises of church property as the law allows,” Paxton wrote.
Paxton also ruled that any church that wants to set up its own volunteer security team is exempt from paying required Private Security Act fees, clarifying a new piece of legislation that took effect on September 1.
The standard procedure for any facility to ban the carrying a firearm requires a conspicuous sign in Spanish and English that reads: “Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person llicensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.”