Texas AG Sues City of Austin for Open Carry Law Violations

Open carry Glock (Ben Branam / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
Ben Branam / Flickr / CC / Cropped

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Austin City Council members to force them to comply with Texas’ open carry law.

The petition for writ of mandamus was filed in district court in Travis County, Texas, and seeks court action to compel the city officials to comply with Texas Government Code section 411.209. The AG is also seeking civil penalties, costs, and fees against the City of Austin for its continued violations.

The petition for writ of mandamus cites section 411.209 and urges that this section prohibits state agencies and political subdivisions from wrongfully excluding handgun license holders from property owned or leased by the government. The law prohibits the City 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 Attorney General received a complaint in September 2015 that the City of Austin was in violation based on its display of § 30.06 signage at the Austin City Hall building, a building that does not fall within any exception under the Texas Penal Code.

In April of 2016, the AG received a citizen complaint that the City was in violation based on the display of a permanent etched glass “no guns” sign, and oral warnings prohibiting the carrying of handguns on the premises of Austin City Hall, a building that does not fall within any exception under Texas Penal Code. The AG sent a letter on April 22, 2016, advising the City that it received another complaint of wrongful exclusion of a handgun license holder complaining of the same violation.

On June 16, 2016, the City responded that it believed Austin City Hall fell within the government court exception in the Penal Code. The Office of the AG asserts that the City provided no authority for its claim that Austin City Hall is a government court.

On July 5, 2016, the Attorney General sent the City a Final Notice of Violation. It informed the City that it had fifteen days from receipt to cure the violation. The notice also required the City to provide proof of the cure to the Office of the Attorney General. The notice said that failure to cure the violation could result in a civil penalty of $1,500 per day for each day of violation beginning on the sixteenth day after the issuance of the Final Notice. It also informed the City that expenses of prosecution could be sought.

The AG asserts that the City has not cured the violation and accordingly has filed a lawsuit to compel them to do so.

In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from AG Ken Paxton, he said, “I will always make sure that governments do not trample on the Second Amendment rights of Texans … and if they do, we will sue.”

C.J. Grisham, head of Open Carry Texas, told Breitbart Texas, “I commend the AG for enforcing the law and holding government entities in Texas to the same standards to which we, the people, are held. Austin is not above the law and should be held accountable. It’s just a shame that the actual people responsible for the violation won’t be held personally responsible.”

“Texas Carry has led the charge against lawless governments like the City of Austin. We have notified 76 local governments that they are in violation and we could not be more pleased the AG is now holding them accountable to the law. It should concern us all that there are so many local governments that believe they do not have to follow the law,” said Terry Holcomb, the founder of the organization.

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.

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.