In June 2013, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the Protection of Texas Children Act (BH 1009) into law, authorizing schools to train certain employees as “school marshals” and carry concealed weapons on campus. After an apparent challenge to the bill by Democrat State Representative Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) in an AG Opinion Request, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott re-affirmed the authority of the law and clarified issues raised by Pickett.
The bill’s author, State Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) said, “We’ve created a new class of law enforcement officers here in Texas to protect our kids in a moment of crisis,” after the bill’s passage last year. The bill was created in response to the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
Rep. Pickett, who currently serves as Chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee after being appointed in the 2013 session by Speaker Joe Straus, sent a seven-page request for an Attorney General Opinion dated October 21st, 2013 (posted below), that seemed to challenge the legality of the bill because of conflicts with already existing concealed handgun carry laws. In a copy of the request obtained by Breitbart Texas, Picket raises the following questions:
- Does a school district’s written authorization allowing either an employee or trustee who has a CHL to carry and use a concealed handgun on school property pursuant to Penal Code §46.03(a)(l) (Guardian Plan) override the prohibition against a concealed handgun license holder from carrying a handgun at “any meeting of a governmental entity” under Penal Code §46.035(c)?
- Does a school district’s written authorization allowing either an employee or trustee who has a CHL to carry and use a concealed handgun on school property pursuant to Penal Code §46.03(a)(l) (Guardian Plan) override the prohibition against a concealed handgun license holder from carrying a handgun “on the premises where a high school, … sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place” on school property under Penal Code §46.035(b)(2)? ·
- Would serving as a Guardian under a school district’s Guardian Plan fall within the scope of official duties of a school board trustee under Texas Education Code § 11.15ll(b)(l5)?
- If the answer to question nos. 1 and/or 2 above is “No,” may a school district simultaneously appoint one employee to serve as a School Marshal under HB 1009 (to ensure an armed presence at school board meetings and sporting events), and appoint another person to serve as a Guardian under a Guardian Plan (to allow flexibility in its armed presence in other locations)?
General Abbott responded to Pickett’s request in the AG Opinion (GA-1051), a copy of which is also posted below, “to answer your first two questions, Penal Code section 46.035, subsections (b) and (c) are not violated when a person is lawfully carrying a handgun pursuant to a school board’s written regulations and authorization because such a person is not carrying the weapon “under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.”
As to the third question, Abbott states that a categorical answer is difficult to provide because of varying jurisdictional issues. However, Abbott concluded, “A person acting according to a school board’s written regulations and authorization would likely be acting within the scope of official duties.”
And finally, on the fourth question, Abbott responds, “No provision in House Bill 1009 conflicts with or is in any way inconsistent with subsection 46.03(a)(l) of the Penal Code. Accordingly, a school board may appoint one person to serve as a school marshal under section 37.0811 of the Education Code and authorize another person to serve under the district’s regulations and authorization under subsection 46.03(a)(l) of the Penal Code.”
After reviewing Gen. Abbott’s Opinion, State Representative Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress), who serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, responded to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas stating, “As a retired police officer, I understand that law enforcement officers cannot be everywhere and that this law was designed to provide the extra security needed to protect our children.”
“General Abbott’s Opinion answers Mr. Pickett’s questions that were already clear in the law,” Fletcher continued, “and made it clear that schools may freely move forward with their efforts to provide the needed additional security to protect our most precious assets, our children.”
Fletcher was instrumental in passing the Campus Concealed Carry Bill in the last session which passed out of the House but died in the Senate. Fletcher has pledged to bring that issue back next session and fight for its passage.
HB 1009 was passed in the Texas House by a vote of 123-22 and in the Senate by a vote of 27-4. Both Representatives Pickett and Fletcher voted yea on the measure. It was signed into law by Gov. Perry on June 14, 2013.
Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX