Austin’s Mayor Doesn’t Want Guns in City Hall

Gov. Greg Abbott says the law means guns should be allowed in public buildings, with a few exceptions.

By Rhonda FanningNovember 24, 2015 11:46 am| ,

If you’ve ever been to a courthouse, you’ve likely had to step through a metal detector: no weapons allowed. But in city halls, which often host court proceedings, whether weapons are allowed is still questionable.

Governor Greg Abbott is telling Texas mayors they can’t ban guns there, or in most government buildings, according to a law passed last legislative session.

Lauren McGaughy is reporting on this story for the Houston Chronicle. She says the legislation essentially would place penalties on local governments – cities, counties, state agencies – if they try to ban concealed handguns in their buildings.

“If there is a courtroom, or a place where a public meeting is being held within a building, then you can put a ‘No gun’ sign outside,” McGaughy says. “But the controversy now is whether or not you can ban guns in an entire building if it has a courtroom in it or public meeting place in it.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton has been asked to issue an opinion on the matter, but Abbott has also decided to weigh in.

“The governor’s office and the attorney general’s office said that it’s not unusual for Gov. Abbott to weigh in on issues like this – he’s done so five times already since Attorney General Paxton was elected,” she says. “Being the state’s former top attorney, he also has a unique understanding of the law, and so he wanted to make it very clear where he stood on this issue.”

Abbott’s note was more of a memo, McGaughy says, but Austin Mayor Steve Adler does not read the law the same way.

Adler has made it clear that he’s going to continue banning guns at Austin City Hall, whether they’re concealed handguns or guns openly carried.

“The way he reads the law is he’s allowed to ban guns in the entire building because there are multiple areas of the building that court proceedings take place in, or where they have public meetings, like the city council chambers,” McGaughy says.

There are specific gun-free zones in Texas. Other than public meeting places and courtrooms, public schools and polling places are allowed to post “No gun” signs. McGaughy says in informal polling places, like a supermarket or library, that area can be considered a gun-free zone as well, as long as voting is actively taking place.

“What’s also important to note about this particular law that we’re talking about … is that open carry goes into effect for handgun license holders, on January first,” McGaughy says. “Ostensibly, if Attorney General Paxton decides that you can’t ban guns in government buildings for concealed handgun license holders that means those same individuals will actually be able to openly carry their handguns in a holster into government buildings.”