Texans licensed to carry firearms may bring their weapons to religious services if specific conditions are met, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton noted Thursday. The official opinion also exempts religious institutions from state fees levied on private organizations which maintain security forces.
General Paxton told Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) in an advisory opinion that a licensed worshiper may carry their firearm onto a religious entity’s property if the institution does not provide proper notice to attendees that such items are forbidden. Unless the requirements under Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Penal Code are met, Texans may lawfully carry concealed or visible weapons, respectively, Paxton explains.
If a body of worship utilizes a building in a rental capacity, attendees are bound by the property owner’s existing notice.
“To the extent a church operates on property other than its own, it should consult with the owner of the property to determine the extent to which it may prohibit or allow the carrying of handguns,” Paxton writes.
Separately, General Paxton agreed that churches and other religious institutions are no longer subject to licensing fees, should they wish to utilize a volunteer security force on their grounds. On September 1, 2017, Senate Bill 2065 went into effect, exempting the $400 initial fee for such arrangements and any annual renewal expenses owed to the State, reportedly running $225 thereafter. The advisory opinion notes that in order to qualify for the fee exemption, unpaid volunteers may not wear uniforms, badges, or insignia that would create the appearance they are “peace officers” or other authorities.
Both Paxton and Patrick acknowledged the weight of the matters in their writings by making references to the tragic shooting on November 5, 2017. Breitbart Texas reported at the time that Devin Patrick Kelley entered the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church armed with a Ruger AR-15 and began to shoot worshipers at close range. Kelley would eventually kill 26 and leave dozens injured, including young children. Kelley was forced from the church grounds when a barefoot neighbor, Stephen Willeford, fired intervening shots and later engaged in a car chase with the help of an unfamiliar passing motorist. The former National Rifle Association trainer reportedly witnessed Kelley’s vehicle swerve off the road after the church shooter turned his remaining weapon on himself.
Given the new law and traumatizing events in Sutherland Springs, Patrick asked on December 1 that his requests for clarity be expedited “so that churches may know what legal options they have to improve their security.”