Texas Lt. Gov. Asks AG for Expedited Answer on Gun Rights, Security for Churches

Sutherland Springs Baptist Church - AP File Photo: Eric Gay
AP File Photo: Eric Gay

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has asked the State’s attorney general to expeditiously issue a legal opinion about Texas law governing concealed handgun license holders carrying in churches. He has also asked for a legal conclusion about congregations’ freedom from regulatory fees for security teams. The Lt. Gov. vows to continue to support measures to clarify the law and protect gun rights in the Lone Star State.

It has been less than a month since Devin Patrick Kelley marched into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and shot and killed 26 people. Breitbart Texas provided extensive coverage of the mass casualty shooting and its painful aftermath.

The obviously deranged gunman escaped from a mental hospital in 2012 and assaulted his wife and stepchild in 2011. Kelley later received a conviction in a general court-martial for assaulting his wife and child. The court sentenced him to one year in jail and ordered a Bad Conduct Discharge from the Air Force. Kelley was able to pass a background check and purchase firearms because the Air Force failed to report his conviction to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Breitbart Texas reported that Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) denied Kelley a License to Carry a handgun.

On Friday, Texas Lt. Gov. Patrick sent Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton a request for an opinion on church security. Patrick called the church shooting “an immense tragedy, the likes of which I pray to never see again.” He added, “I know many are thankful for the Texan who stopped this attack through the exercise of his Second Amendment rights.”

Stephen Willeford, a Sutherland Springs resident who is a former NRA instructor, engaged Kelley in front of the church causing him to flee. Texas officials reported that the killer was struck by Willeford’s gunfire two times–once in the torso and once in the leg. Kelley dropped his rifle, got in his car, and fled the scene before he could shoot anyone else.

The Lt. Governor states in his attorney general request that he believes “our state laws provide more protection than many Texans realize.” He asked the Texas AG to answer these two questions:

  1. May handgun license holders carry their handguns on the premises of a church that does not post signs excluding handguns?
  2. By passing Senate Bill 2065 in the last regular legislative session, did the Legislature waive the private security fee for churches that Texas charges to private institutions?

Patrick wrote that he believes:

Texans who are licensed to carry a handgun may carry their handgun at church, unless a church property posts a handgun exclusion sign, but confusion seems to exist over this topic because section 46.035(b)(6) of the Texas Penal Code says that a handgun license holder commits an offense by carrying ‘on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship.’

Another provision of the Texas Penal Code clarifies that the provision does not apply if the license holder “was not given effective notice under Section 30.06 or 30.07.”

The Lt. Governor’s attorney general request is attached below.

Patrick also asks the attorney general to clarify whether Texas churches should be able to assemble volunteer teams without paying fees or submitting to other regulations.  He believes that Senate Bill 2065 passed this year answers that question in the affirmative.

He concludes in his opinion letter request:

Next legislative session I will continue to support initiatives to clarify the law and protect gun rights in Texas. Meanwhile, I ask that you please expedite this request so that churches may know what legal options they have to improve their security.

Over three hundred pastors, church leaders, and law enforcement personnel attended a church security workshop this week in Houston. The Houston Area Pastor Council and Texas Pastor Council partnered with several other ministries to put on the November 28 workshop at the Houston Police Officer Union building.

Breitbart News’ AWR Hawkins reported that after the shooting, USA Today criticized Texas’ concealed carry laws.  The liberal media outlet pointed to a new law that reduced fees for a permit from $14o to $40. The paper reported that a portion of the concealed carry safety course could be done online and a permit allows a holder to carry openly or concealed. USA Today added, “The open carry law allows licensed gun owners to carry their weapons in most public spaces.”

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

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Request for AG Opinion on Gun Rights and Church Security by lanashadwick on Scribd


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