Back to School 2017: New Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Texas

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Edwin Walker, Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield:

Well, back-to-school time is almost here, so let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between schools and guns.

I’m Edwin Walker, Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield. As of August 1st, 2017, it will become legal for LTC holders to take their concealed handguns onto the campuses and inside of the buildings of public junior colleges here in the state of Texas. This has been legal to do for universities since August 1st, 2016. This has now been extended to junior colleges.

This means that an LTC holder can carry their concealed handguns into previously prohibited areas at junior colleges, which include the buildings. Now a junior college may limit certain specific areas where a license holder would not be allowed to carry a concealed handgun, but those areas must be posted or the person’s given effective trespass notice under Texas Penal Code 30.06.

Back to School: No open carry on college campuses

It is very important to remember that any handgun carried anywhere on a campus by an LTC holder must be concealed. There is no open carry on college campuses. Also, it must be carried concealed in areas where carrying a handgun by an LTC holder is not prohibited. Those areas include parking lots, sidewalks, walkways, and streets. Remember, carrying on a college campus is a concealed-carry-only area.

It is legal for an LTC holder to have their handgun on the sidewalks, walkways, parking lots, and parking garages of a high school, middle school, or elementary school. Now, is it legal to have a firearm in your automobile while you are picking up or dropping off a child at a high school, middle school, or elementary school? This is a very interesting question because the law would seem to stay that it is, as parking lots are exempted from being premises under the law.

However, the law does contain a provision that a person is not allowed to bring a firearm onto the grounds of a school-sponsored activity. There have been some school districts across the state that have taken the position that the pick-up and drop-off of children is a school-sponsored activity that occurs on the grounds of the school. Therefore, possession of a firearm would be prohibited in these areas.

We disagree with this interpretation, but there have been several school districts that have put it into a written policy that this is their belief. Fortunately, we are unaware of anybody who has been arrested or prosecuted under this interpretation of the law. Hopefully, nobody will before the legislature has an opportunity to redress it.

School-sponsored activity that occurs outside of the area of a school

Now, what about carrying at a school-sponsored activity that occurs outside of the area of a school? For example, let’s say that a license to carry holder is having dinner at a Dairy Queen. The high school basketball team just happens to show up for their after-game meal. Is this LTC holder now carrying at a school- sponsored event, and therefore would be prohibited? Well, the Texas Legislature in this past session had a bill filed that would clear up this area, and it would specify that a school-sponsored activity could only occur on property that is owned by the school, therefore exempting off-premises locations such as restaurants, parks, museums, etc. However, this bill did not pass.

So, does there continue to be a risk that an individual carries at a school-sponsored activity if they just happen to lawfully be somewhere and a school-sponsored activity happens upon them. In theory, this could happen. However, we have yet to see anybody arrested or prosecuted for this, and we continue to hope that it does not happen. Obviously, the defense would be that the individual did not intend to carry a school-sponsored activity. They just happened to be in a place where they were lawful to be, and the school-sponsored activity happened upon them. They did not intend to carry at the event.

One area where the Texas Legislature did provide some clarification is that as of September 1st, 2017, a school district or open enrollment charter school cannot have an employment policy that prohibits its employees who are LTC holders from keeping firearms or ammunition in their private motor vehicles that are parked on school parking lots. Now, keep in mind that the firearm does have to be concealed, it cannot be in plain view.

What this means is that while it has never been a criminal act for an employee of a school to have a handgun in their motor vehicle on a parking lot, it now cannot be considered to be a violation of employment rules or school policy.

So now a school district cannot discipline or fire an employee who is an LTC holder who lawfully keeps a handgun concealed in their motor vehicle on a school parking lot. This is a great win for school employees who previously had been prohibited under the threat of losing their job for lawfully carrying a handgun in their motor vehicle on a school parking lot.

Source: Texas Law Shield

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