Texas County and Gun Rights Group Duel Over Right to Carry

Open Carry
File Photo: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

The founder of a gun rights organization has sent notices to 76 government entities alleging they are violating Texas law by wrongfully excluding LTC (licensed to carry) holders. He is now being sued by one of those counties.

“What we have before us is a local government that has decided it will use fear and bully tactics to try and teach the citizens a lesson. This is a baseless suit without merit, and Waller County is trying to intimidate the people by bringing this ridiculous suit,” said Terry Holcomb, Founder and Sr. Executive Director of Texas Carry.

The Waller County D.A. says the courthouse is legally and rightfully off limits to LTC holders.

The lawsuit filed by the Waller County D.A. states that the issue is whether signs posted at courthouses citing Texas Penal Code § 46.03(a)(3) (which prohibits an individual from entering a courthouse carrying a prohibited weapon or firearm), violates section 411.209 of the Government Code. The lawsuit also maintains 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.”

The civil lawsuit served on Holcomb on July 11 seeks a declaratory judgment that the posted signs do not violate Penal Code § 46.03(a)(3) and that this section “prohibits an individual from carrying firearms and other prohibited weapons throughout an entire building that houses a government court, including but not limited to the Waller County Courthouse.”

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told Breitbart Texas, “We were not looking for any monetary damages against Mr. Holcomb initially, we simply needed the issue resolved. He has voluntarily interjected himself into the local affairs of Waller County citizens by filing a complaint against us with the Attorney General. After reviewing his answer and the improper arguments contained therein we are keeping those options open.”

The Texas Carry founder says that “in the filing, Waller County is complaining that Mr. Holcomb simply notified them that he believed they were in violation of Government Code 411.209 due to the posting of signs that notified an LTC holder that they were committing a felony by entering the Waller County Courthouse.” Holcomb, who lives in San Jacinto County, Texas, told Breitbart Texas, “This is an unprecedented move by a local government since the law calls for them to address the complaint with the Texas Attorney General.”

“Since September of 2015, Texas Carry has notified 76 governmental entities that they are in violation of Government Code 411.209. It is breathtaking when looking at that number,” he says. “So many local governments have thumbed their noses at the law willfully and intentionally, and that should concern us all.”

Holcomb asserts, “Texas Carry has been very successful in bringing many of these local governments into compliance, and we have filed numerous complaints with the Texas Attorney General’s Office regarding compliance issues.”

Waller County D.A. Mathis told Breitbart Texas, “The Waller County Criminal District Attorney’s Office staunchly safeguards, respects, and even educates our local citizens on their Second Amendment rights. However, it is also part of my responsibilities to ensure the safe and orderly work of criminal justice in our courthouse. Allowing citizens to carry inside the courthouse in violation of state law is not only illegal, but subjects witnesses, victims, officers, prosecutors, attorneys, judges and all Waller County citizens conducting business therein to an unnecessary and unjustifiable risk.”

The D.A. told Breitbart Texas, “The commissioners court is adamant that guns will not come in the courthouse.” He added, “This issue needs to be put to bed and we are glad to be the ones to do it.”

D.A. Mathis added, “In the last fifteen years there have been at least three shootings just outside Texas courthouses, and that’s when guns were completely prohibited inside courthouses. Can you imagine the carnage if they were permitted inside the building where murderers are sentenced, where couples divorce, and where children are removed from their parents for their own protection? Allowing guns in the courthouse would have us violate the clear statutory language of section 46.03(a) of the Penal Code just to pander to a small group of citizens who do not even reside in Waller County and who don’t want to understand that even the Second Amendment has limitations.”

Mathis said guns are not allowed in prisons, in hospitals, and in sporting arenas, and they should not be allowed in courthouses. “The Legislature realizes this, judges realize this, rational Republicans and Democrats agree on this, and until and if the Legislature changes the law we will enforce the laws as written aside from political pressure or attempted intimidation by special interest groups.”

Holcomb told Breitbart Texas he is being represented by Houston lawyer T. Edwin Walker and he describes him as “an independent program attorney with Texas Law Shield.” Holcomb says while “Mr. Holcomb is a member of Texas Law Shield, such a suit as this is not part of their coverage. Mr. Walker has graciously offered to represent him regardless.”

In a statement provided to Breitbart Texas, Edwin Walker said, “This lawsuit by Waller County is unprecedented.  There is nothing new about governments, especially county and municipal governments, behaving petty and vindictive. However, Waller County has taken it to a new level by filing a lawsuit against a private citizen who is attempting to exercise his First and Second Amendment rights, by using his statutory rights as a Texas citizen and LTC holder. This lawsuit is an unconscionable act that is nothing more than government officials using the judicial system to harass and silence the people. If the courts, the Attorney General, and ultimately perhaps the Texas Legislature, does not stop Waller County, it will be open season for local governments to intimidate LTC holders.”

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.

Breitbart Texas reported in April 2016 that the Office of the Attorney General was taking actions against local governments who were illegally or improperly posting signs prohibiting licensed Texans from carrying handguns. 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. During the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 273 was passed to provide private citizens a pathway to file complaints against city and county governments that unlawfully place 30.06 signs and interfere with the rights of licensed Texans to carry.

The Waller County lawsuit below lists the factual background, the applicable statutory law, and applies the law to their county as county officials see it.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.

Waller County Lawsuit Against Terry Holcomb, Sr.


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