After receiving a complaint from a citizen, the Texas Office of the Attorney General has ruled that Waller County’s sign prohibiting licensed carry at the entrance to the county courthouse is in violation of State Law.
Terry Holcomb, a pastor and member of the State Republican Executive Committee from Senate District 3, filed a complaint that the signs in Waller County, and several other Texas counties were unlawfully placed. Shockingly, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis then sued Holcomb for up to $100,000 in damages.
The ruling comes after dozens of citizens gathered in front of the Waller Courthouse to protest the lawsuit against Holcomb. Addressing the crowd of activists open-carrying firearms and waving Gadsden flags, Holcomb stated:
“I am personally being sued for petitioning my government and redressing my grievances… That is not about me, that is about you, and about every Texans who lives in this state, under section 27 of our constitution, that says we have the right to petition our government, we have the right to redress our grievances, without the fear of a SLAPP suit.”
Following the rally, many of the activists entered the courthouse and filed complaints identical to Holcomb’s.
Texas Law allows local governments to prohibit the carry of firearms “on the premises of any government court.” The complaints hinge on whether “premises” refers to government buildings containing courtrooms and other administrative offices, or only the courtrooms themselves and essential court offices.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s rulings make it clear that “the premises of a ‘government court or office utilized by the court’ means a government courtroom or those offices essential to the operation of the government court.” Noting that the Waller County Courthouse is a multipurpose government building, the OAG found the county out of compliance with Government Code Section 411.209, which states:
“A state agency or a political subdivision of the state may not provide notice by a communication described by Section 30.06, Penal Code, or by any sign expressly referring to that law or to a concealed handgun license, that a license holder carrying a handgun under the authority of this subchapter is prohibited from entering or remaining on a premises or other place owned or leased by the governmental entity unless license holders are prohibited from carrying a handgun on the premises or other places by Section 46.03 or 46.035, Penal Code.”
Waller County has fifteen days to remove the offending signs or face a civil suit from the OAG and a fine of up to $10,500.