HEMPSTEAD, Texas — Second Amendment advocates descended on the Waller County Courthouse to support a fellow Texan who was sued by the County after he served notice on them alleging a violation of Texas gun rights.
The gun rights advocates engaged in an open carry protest and went to the Waller County Clerk Office to file their own complaints against the County. They told County officials, “You are served.” The gun rights advocates say officials are being “tyrannical” “bullies” and are abusing their power.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, Waller County filed a lawsuit against the founder of Texas Carry, a guns rights organization that sent the County a notice complaining that it was in violation of Texas law by excluding licensed to carry (LTC) holders.
The gun rights activists and open carry protesters learned after the protest that Attorney General Ken Paxton had just sent Waller County officials a notice that they were in violation of the law (see letter below). The AG gave county officials 15 days to cure the violation and put it on notice that the Office of the Attorney General may file suit and seek $1,000 – $1,500 for the first violation, and not less than $10,000 – $10,500 for any second and subsequent violation. Each continuing day constitutes a separate violation.
Holcomb told Breitbart Texas, “The Attorney General has notified the lawless officials in Waller County that they are in violation of the law. I want to applaud the AG for taking decisive action on these officials that are treading all over our First Amendment rights.” He added, “With that being said, we want to make something perfectly clear, he said if they think the AG will give them a way out of dealing with their First Amendment violations they are sadly mistaken.”
Holcomb explained, “The gun issue and the First Amendment issue are two very separate issues. The AG will deal with the gun issue according to the law. My legal team and I will deal with the blatant First Amendment violations and the SLAPP suit these bullies engaged in.”
Waller County officials say that the courthouse is legally off-limits to licensed gun holders. Allowing citizens to carry inside the courthouse in violation of state law subjects witnesses and parties to a lawsuit, judges, attorneys, officers and prosecutors, “to an unnecessary and unjustifiable risk,” they say. The lawyer for Waller County, District Attorney Elton Mathis told Breitbart Texas, “The commissioners court is adamant that guns will not come in the courthouse.” He says the Texas Legislature has not intended the “sweeping interpretation” that the gun rights advocates are giving it.
D.A. Mathis says that the issue of where and when folks can carry near and in a courthouse needs to be legally interpreted in the court system. The County sued in order to have rights and duties under Texas law legally declared by a judge. “All Texans should welcome this resolution,” he said.
The gun rights advocates say they will pursue the issue all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. They urge that such action by governmental entities cannot go unchallenged because it could encourage “anti-gun officials” who want to silence the voices of gun owners defending their Second Amendment rights.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, the organizer of the armed protest Open Carry Texas founder C.J. Grisham said, “The actions by District Attorney Elton Mathis must not go unchallenged. He needs to understand that the people will not stand for his bullying and abuse of government against a citizen of this state. His bold action, if not challenged, could send ripples through the state and encourage even more such attempts by anti-gun officials intent on silencing the voices of gun owners defending our right to keep and bear arms.”
The gun carrying protesters bowed their heads in prayer as Pastor Holcomb prayed standing next to Grisham.
The lawsuit filed by Waller County against Texas Carry founder Terry Holcomb, Sr. states that the issue is whether signs posted at courthouses (citing Texas Penal Code § 46.03(a)(3)) violates section 411.209 of the Government Code. Section 46.03(a), which prohibits an individual from entering a courthouse carrying a prohibited weapon or firearm. The petition also states that a related question is whether this Penal Code section “prohibits an individual from carrying firearms and other weapons throughout the entire building in which a court or court office is located or only in an actual courtroom or court office.”
Section 411.209 prohibits state agencies and political subdivisions from wrongfully excluding handgun license holders from property owned or leased by the government. The law prohibits a governmental entity from providing notice by a communication described in Texas Penal Code § 30.06, or by any sign expressly referring to that law or to a concealed handgun license, that a license holder carrying a handgun is prohibited from entering or remaining on a premises or other place owned or leased by the governmental entity unless the license holder is prohibited from carrying a handgun on the premises or other place by Texas Penal Code §§ 46.03 or 46.035.
A state agency or political subdivision is liable for civil penalties, fees, and costs if it has been found to be in violation of this law. The lawsuit asks for $100,000 in damages, a figure which must be pled in order to meet the minimum jurisdiction of the court. D.A. Mathis issued a statement that said, “[T]he County is not seeking to collect monetary damages or to punish Mr. Holcomb for submitting a complaint about our sign at the courthouse. The County is seeking a judicial ruling confirming that Texas law prohibits firearms throughout the entire courthouse, not just in individual courtrooms. We are confident in our interpretation of the law and look forward to a court settling the disagreement and verifying that firearms are prohibited in courthouses.”
Holcomb asked for sanctions in his Original Answer brief to the lawsuit. He alleges that the lawsuit against him was either groundless and brought in bad faith — or groundless and brought for the purpose of harassment.
Holcomb is a pastor and farmer who lives with his family in Coldspring, Texas, located in San Jacinto County approximately 85 miles away. Holcomb and the founder of the group Open Carry Texas, C.J. Grisham, have filed over 75 complaints against governmental entities in the Lone Star State.
During the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 273 was passed to provide citizens a way to file complaints against cities and counties that unlawfully place 30.06 signs and interfere with the rights of licensed Texans to carry. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law.
In April 2016, the Texas Attorney General started taking action against local governments that were illegally or improperly posting signs prohibiting licensed Texans from carrying handguns, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The article details the process in which a citizen can notify a local government and give them three days to remove an improper or illegal 30.06 sign.