When SB60 passed in 1995 establishing a concealed handgun license program in Texas, it also identified specific locations that would be off-limits to armed concealed handgun licensees (“CHL”). At that time the only trespass law was found in Texas Penal Code Section 30.05. Unwarranted scare tactics employed by the media and those who did not want to provide Texans with the means of defending themselves and their loved ones prompted countless small businesses to post small generic “no gun” decals on their property. These were typically clear 2” X 2” decals that could easily be missed resulting in a CHL inadvertently entering property that had been “posted.”
This problem was corrected in 1997 when HB2909 passed creating Tex. Penal Code §30.06. This Code section establishes clear, unambiguous and conspicuous requirements for posting signs with the intent to prohibit CHL’s from entering property with their self-defense handguns. Over the ensuring seventeen years, §30.06 has served property owners and CHL’s well, with one exception – misuse by local governmental agencies and entities. Many local officials were not satisfied with the statutorily created off-limits areas, so they started posting 30.06 signs on government property that is open to the public. The Legislature took a dim view of this practice, so the 78th Legislature in 2003 passed SB501 that amended Tex. Penal Code §30.06. Newly added Subsection (e) rendered unenforceable 30.06 signs posted on any property that is owned or leased by a governmental entity. Signs could be posted on property that was in the list of off-limits locations created by the Legislature, but doing so was meaningless as that property was already off-limits.
One would have thought local officials would have honored the clear legislative intent behind SB501 and that they would not post 30.06 signs that were unenforceable. Sadly, this was not to be the case. To this day, local officials continue to post unenforceable 30.06 signs. Since these signs are unenforceable, there is but one inescapable conclusion. They are being used by local officials purely to intimidate CHLs into disarming when the law does not require them to do so. There are even reports that some CHL’s are threatened with arrest and prosecution if they enter improperly posted property with a handgun. Such conduct by governmental employees is inexcusable.
This practice is so widespread that HB508 was filed by Rep. Gullien in 2013 and its provisions would have established substantial fines for any governmental agency or entity that posted an unenforceable 30.06 sign or any other similar sign. First offenses were subject to either a $1,000 or $1,500 per day/per sign fine. All subsequent offenses would result in either a $10,000 or $10,500 per day/per sign fine. This would have ended the intimidation of CHLs, but the Senate’s attempt to add an amendment to the Bill doomed it in the House.
HB508 passed the House with virtually no opposition, but it was amended in the Senate to allow Senators and Representatives to carry their handguns everywhere in the State. The amendment was unacceptable to the House and the Bill was sent to a Senate/House conference committee. Instead of removing the offensive amendment, the conference committee expanded the elitist provision to apply to U.S. Congressmen as well! The House refused to concur with the conference committee version and HB508 was defeated by a huge margin. (There was not enough time to send the Bill back to conference committee.) CHL’s were understandably shocked and angered at the Senate’s action.
Rep. Guillen is likely to file the same or similar bill in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session and chances are very good for passage of a clean bill.