I was wondering the other day about whether it was permissible to carry a gun to a local government meeting. Was part of a discussion that had quite a bit of different answers, so called up John Bennett, Chief of Stafffor Senator Estes, whose Texas Legislature Bill this is.
My questions were two: If a meeting takes place at a government facility, can a person come to the meeting with a gun? Answer: Yes, unless the government entity has specifically posted 30.06 signs. (Two signs, one for CHL and one for open carry). Otherwise, by default, if there are no signs, anyone who is licensed to carry can come on premises with a gun. Here is the link to the Texas Statute regarding 30.06.
My second question was. Suppose the meeting takes place at a facility that is not a government building, such as the Expo Center or Citizens Center. That gets a little squishier, but it is then up to the property owner to decide to put up a sign. However, the government entity might arrange to bring the signs to put up during the time a meeting is taking place.
Both these answers assume that if signs have gone up, it's because the government entity has decided or voted to do so.
Having said that, there are some places that guns can't be carried into, period. That includes sporting events, hospitals, schools (K-12). Guns can be carried on the school property but not within the premises (ie, within the building). So, example: If a hosptial board meeting takes place in the conference room at the hospital, no guns are allowed, period. If the meeting takes place at an external site, such as the citizens center, guns are allowed unless the citizens center disallows them, or the hospital board has voted against it, and brings signs to the meeting. Since it's the case that guns are prohibited no matter what at certain places, I asked how people would know. The people who are licensed to carry guns would have been through training and would know they can't bring their guns to those places. And, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Having said all the above, here is my opinion. I am not comfortable with attending government meetings where the participants open carry or bring in long guns. It appears that unless the local government entity decides or votes to limit open carry, that will happen. Right now anyone can bring a gun to any meeting that does not have the 3.06 sign and in January, that will include people who want to strut their stuff with a holstered gun. Could also include someone who wants to posture with a long gun. I'm planning to bring this discussion to my own local representatives-seems to me that with the number of people that attend government meetings, which is usually a small number of participants, allowing open carry or long guns limits it evern more for those who don't want to go somewhere that happens.
Update: What about long gun carry? I hadn't been aware that the CHL and open carry applies only to handguns. (Again, to open carry a handgun requires a CHL license) So, the people that have been carrying rifles into restaurants don't fall into that category? Are they required to have a gun license? According to someone I spoke with this morning, it's legal in Texas to carry a long gun and the Open Carry only applies to handguns. The exception is with regard to TABC laws (Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission) which requires a sign be posted at places that sell alcohol, thus.
- Weapons Warning Sign: It is unlawful to carry a weapon on the premises unless the person is licensed to carry the weapon under the concealed handgun law.
Here are some Texas gun laws for beginners written by owner of a Texas gun shop. Calling out this part in particular.
2. Property owner and managers may direct any person who is armed to leave their premises. The firearm owner must immediately comply with this order, irrespective of whether they have a CHL or not. Simply put, if someone in authority says, “you can’t carry a gun while you’re here,” then leave peacefully right then.
Here is a stance Chilis and Sonic in Texas took last year with regard to carrying firearms into their places of business
Update 3, May 30, 2014, 4:15 p.m. EDT: Both Sonic and Brinker International/Chili's have now announced official positions on the issue: A Sonic spokesperson said the company is "asking that customers refrain from bringing guns onto our patios or into our indoor dining areas." A Brinker International/Chili's spokesperson said, "We recognize that the open carry of firearms in restaurants creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and is not permitted under many local liquor laws. So, we kindly ask that guests refrain from openly carrying firearms into our restaurants and we will continue to follow state and local laws on this issue."