Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Waller County for refusing to comply with state gun laws. The lawsuit comes after Waller County made clear its intentions to defy an earlier ruling by Paxton requiring them to remove signs forbidding firearms in administrative parts of the multipurpose courthouse building.
Texas law allows for local governments to ban firearms, “on the premises of any government court.” While Waller County officials insist that this allows them to ban firearms throughout the entire administrative building which houses the county courts among other administrative offices, Paxton’s rulings have made it clear that “premises” refers only to courtrooms and essential court offices.
Noting that the signs outside the Waller County Courthouse were likely in violation of state law, gun rights activist and pastor Terry Holcomb filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. Waller County then sued Holcomb, claiming to want a declaratory judgment from Paxton, while seeking court costs and attorney fees from Holcomb, as well as up to $100,000 in damages.
On August 10, as gun rights activists gathered to protest the suit against Holcomb, Paxton handed down a ruling that Waller County had indeed violated the law. The county was given fifteen days to remove the signs or face a civil suit, along with a fine, from the Attorney General.
Despite the fact that Waller County has admitted that there are non-judicial administrative offices in the courthouse building, the county indicated in their response to Paxton that they have no intention of complying with his ruling.
In their response, the county complained about the injustice of facing civil penalties for not complying with state law, stating that fines for violating the law were “unjust and inequitable.” Additionally, they stated their intention to proceed with the lawsuit against Holcomb.
The time allotted for Waller County to remove the signs expired with the county still in defiance, so as promised, Paxton is suing the county to bring them into compliance with state law. In a press release, Paxton explained the reason for the lawsuit:
“A local government cannot be allowed to flout Texas’s licensed carry laws, or any state law, simply because it disagrees with the law or doesn’t feel like honoring it. I will vigilantly protect and preserve the Second Amendment rights of Texans.”
The lawsuit seeks a civil penalty from Waller County of $1,500 per day as long as the signs remain. Paxton is also asking the court for a writ of mandamus against the county and its officials to require them to adhere to Texas law.