Local intimidation of Concealed Handgun Licensees must stop!
The Texas Concealed Handgun License statute was created in 1995 with the passage of Senate Bill 60. Among the provisions in SB60 was the designation of certain governmental property that would be off-limits to Texas Concealed Handgun Licensees (CHLs) carrying self-defense handguns. In 1997, HB2909 passed that, among other things, created Tex. Penal Code §30.06, Trespass by a Holder of a License to Carry a Concealed Handgun, with its clear and unambiguous requirements for property owners to follow if they wished to bar entry to their property by CHLs carrying self-defense handguns. This was made necessary by the practice of posting small generic “no guns” decals on locations that could easily go unseen by CHLs entering property.
Use of trespass laws to bar entry by CHLs carrying self-defense handguns.
Tex. Penal Code §30.06 has worked very well for property owners and CHL’s for eighteen years, with one glaring exception. Some units of local government and state agencies have taken it on themselves to ignore the intent of the Texas Legislature and make additional government-owned or leased property off-limits to CHLs carrying handguns. They have done so by posting so-called 30.06 signs on property that the Legislature chose not to make off-limits.
In 2003, the Legislature addressed this issue by passing SB501 that created Subsection 30.06(e) that renders unenforceable any 30.06 sign that was posted on property owned or leased by a governmental entity, unless that location was already off-limits by Tex. Penal Code §§46.03 or 46.035. So the problem was solved, right? Wrong!
One would expect that cities, counties and other units of local government and state agencies would have finally honored the Legislature’s intent concerning which government-owned or leased property would be off-limits to CHLs. After all, why post a 30.06 sign that was not enforceable? Unfortunately, some intellectually dishonest local officials are more than willing to achieve by intimidation and extortion that which has been denied to them by the Legislature. Thousands of unenforceable 30.06 signs can be seen on government property and many thousands of law-abiding CHLs are fearful to enter property with their self-defense handgun even though it is perfectly legal to do so. Reports indicate that some cities have gone so far as to instruct their police officers to arrest CHLs who enter government property that is posted with an unenforceable 30.06 sign. While such reports are anecdotal and their number and/or accuracy cannot be confirmed because of fear of retaliation against the whistleblowers, it is undeniable that unenforceable 30.06 signs are posted throughout the State.
In 2013, House Bill 508 (HB508) was filed by Rep. Guillen. As initially filed, it would have made it a criminal offence (Class C Misdemeanor) for a governmental official or employee to post an unenforceable 30.06 sign, punishable for a $250 fine. Each day the sign was posted constituted a separate violation.
As was expected, the Texas Municipal League (TML) a lobbying organization funded by taxpayer dollars to lobby against taxpayers, went crazy! The very idea that governmental employees or officials could be held criminally responsible for intimidating and perhaps even arresting law-abiding citizens was repugnant to these government lobbyists. At TML’s suggestion, a committee substitute for HB508 was voted favorably from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. This substitute ditched the criminal offense provisions and substituted a civil fine that called for a fine of either $1,000 or $1,500 per day, per sign for the first violation. This fine increased to $10,000 or $10,500 per day per sign for all subsequent violations. The amount of the fines was suggested by the TML lobbyist who candidly admitted that cities should not be posting unenforceable signs.
HB508 passed the House with 142 yeas, 0 nays and 1 present not voting. Every single Representative knew it was wrong to allow local officials to intimidate law-abiding CHLs. HB508 went to the Senate where it passed with 26 yeas and 5 nays, but with an amendment that ultimately proved to be a killer amendment in the House. When the House refused to concur with the Senate amendment to HB508, the Bill went to a conference committee where the killer amendment was actually made worse ultimately dooming it in the House.
Senator Campbell has filed SB273 and Rep. Guillen has filed HB226 to address this ongoing problem. As with HB508 from 2013, both Bills create a civil fine rather than a criminal offense and the fines are in the same amounts recommended by the TML lobbyist in 2013. In view of the overwhelming support in both the House and Senate last session, there is every reason to believe one of these bills will pass. Sen. Campbell’s SB273 is moving quickly thanks to the Senate’s early focus on bills that are important to Texas gun owners, so it is likely to be the Bill that passes this session.
It is important to note that neither SB273 nor HB226 reduce any authority units of local government and state agencies currently have to control their property. Only unenforceable 30.06 signs will be impacted meaning the only opposition to either of these bills must come from people and organizations that want to be able to continue intimidating law-abiding Texans and thumb their noses at clear Legislative intent.
Sen. Campbell is proving herself to be a true friend to gun owners. In her freshman session in 2013, she passed SB864 that reduced the minimum classroom hours required to obtain a Texas Concealed Handgun License from an unnecessarily long ten hours to four hours, exclusive of range time. This session, in addition to SB273, Sen. Campbell has also filed SB311 that will reduce the number of off-limits locations applicable to CHLs carrying self-defense handguns.
Thank you Senator Campbell and Rep. Guillen for taking a stand against governmental intimidation of law-abiding Texas Concealed Handgun Licensees.