Is it lawful in Texas for a holder of a concealed handgun license to be armed while at places of worship? I have been receiving conflicting information on this issue.
There seems to be some confusion regarding whether it is lawful for holders of Texas Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHL) to carry concealed handguns in churches, synagogues, and other “established place[s] of religious worship.” To understand the Texas CHL law, as well as the reason for this confusion, we need to take a brief look at the legislative history of the Texas CHL law.
The current Texas “shall-issue” concealed carry law was enacted in 1995, in the aftermath of the 1991 mass-shooting at Luby’s Cafeteria, in Killeen, Texas. At that time, the Luby’s shooting was the deadliest mass-shooting in American history.
The Texas CHL law is codified as Penal Code § 46.035. As originally enacted, the statute stated that it was unlawful for a License Holder to carry a concealed firearm “on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship.” P.C. § 46.305(b)(6). The term “premises” is defined narrowly, to include only “a building or a portion of a building. The term [premises] does not include any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area.” P.C. § 46.035(f)(3).
Thus, as originally enacted, the Texas CHL law made it unlawful for CHL holders to carry inside churches and other religious buildings, regardless of whether the property owner was amenable to concealed carry on the premises.
In 1997, two years after the current CHL law was passed, the Texas legislature decided to eliminate the prohibition against concealed carry in churches and certain other statutorily-prohibited locations. The simply, most logical, and most straightforward way of making these changes would have been to simply repeal subsection (b)(6) of section 46.305, as well as the subsections that formerly outlawed concealed carry at certain other locations.
But instead of simply repealing subsection (b)(6) and the other undesirable subsections, the Texas legislature, instead, added a new subsection, subsection (i), which states: “Subsections (b)(4), (b)(5), (b)(6), and (c) do not apply if the actor was not given effective notice under Section 30.06.” P.C. § 46.035(i).
The term “Section 30.06” is a reference to Texas Penal Code § 30.06, which is a trespass statute that gives owners of real property the legal ability to prohibit the otherwise lawful carry of concealed firearms while on their property. Section 30.06 is an attempt to balance the rights of private property owners against the rights of License Holders.
Thus, the Texas legislature mixed legislative “apples and oranges,” by taking a statute which originally was intended to be used for the state government to prohibited concealed carry in certain locations and turned it, at least partially, into a trespass statute to be used by owners of certain private property buildings who want to prohibit concealed carry inside those buildings.
Although most subscribers to this column would likely agree that the Texas legislature achieved a desirable result when it added subsection (i) to Texas Penal Code § 46.035, it’s hard to argue that method the legislature chose to do so was not illogical, inartful, or downright clumsy.
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