The Texas Attorney General has fired off a brief in the litigation over the right to bear arms in the Waller County Courthouse complex. AG Ken Paxton urges that “Both the law and sound public policy against the chilling of protected speech demand dismissal of Waller County’s claim. He also urges that the Waller County court is without jurisdiction to determine the issue.
Breitbart Texas has been following the controversy and the protests by Second Amendment advocates over the right for concealed handgun license holders to have guns in a government building. The Waller County, Texas complex houses courtrooms and judicial chambers and court staff offices as well as the County Clerk Office and other county offices.
Officials for Waller County urge that the courthouse is legally off-limits to licensed gun holders. They say allowing citizens to carry inside the courthouse in violation of state law is dangerous because it subjects witnesses and litigants, judges, lawyers, prosecutors, peace officers and others, “to an unnecessary and unjustifiable risk.” District Attorney Elton Mathis told Breitbart Texas, “The commissioners court is adamant that guns will not come in the courthouse.” The District Attorney said his clients, the officials in the county, do not believe that the Texas Legislature has intended the “sweeping interpretation” that the Second Amendment advocates are giving it.
Waller County filed a lawsuit against San Jacinto County resident Terry Holcomb Sr., founder of Texas Carry. Holcomb sent the County a notice complaining that county officials were in violation of Texas law by excluding licensed to carry (LTC) holders, as reported by Breitbart Texas.
D.A. Mathis says the new law that allows LTC holders to carry in government buildings and around courthouses needs to be legally interpreted in the court system. The County sued Holcomb in order to have the rights and duties under Texas law legally declared by a judge. “All Texans should welcome this resolution,” he said. Waller County’s lawsuit states that the issue is whether signs posted at courthouses violate section 411.209 of the Government Code. Section 46.03(a) of the Texas Penal Code prohibits an individual from entering a courthouse carrying a prohibited weapon or firearm. The petition 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.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton writes in his amicus curiae brief (Latin for “friend of the court”), “Allowing this suit–in which the County has sued a citizen based on lawful exercise of his right to grieve–to proceed is an affront to the constitutional rights afforded by The Texas Constitution and will not resolve the County’s liability under § 411.209. The Court should dismiss the County’s claim for lack of jurisdiction.”
Breitbart Texas was in Waller County when gun rights advocates descended on Waller County in August to support their fellow Second Amendment advocate after he was sued by the County. During the open carry protest, they went to the Waller County Clerk’s Office to file their own complaints against the County. A video of them bringing their complaints to the County Clerk is included in the article.
Right before the protest, Texas Attorney General (AG) Ken Paxton sent Waller County officials a notice that they were in violation of the law. The AG gave county officials 15 days to cure the violation and put it on notice that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) 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 under Texas law. As reported by Breitbart Texas, the AG filed a lawsuit on August 29th in Travis County, Texas. Austin, the State Capital, is in Travis County.
The Attorney General argues in his brief that the Travis County district court in which the AG has filed suit “is where Waller County’s liability, or exemption therefrom, will be determined.”
Holcomb told Breitbart Texas after the AG filed the amicus brief, “We are very pleased that Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken such a strong stand against this bully of a County Judge. It’s obvious he is used to simply running over people. This is a blatant violation of our very basic right to redress our grievances with the government.”
The Texas Carry founder said he will litigate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. He argues that if they do not do so, it could encourage “anti-gun officials” who want to silence the voices of gun owners defending their Second Amendment rights.