Licensed handgun owners can legally carry loaded weapons into Texas churches that do not have posted signs banning weapons, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a legal opinion released today. The opinion also clarified that a new law passed this year by the Legislature exempts churches from state fees for creating volunteer security teams.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick requested the opinion on December 1, and asked Attorney General Paxton to expedite his responses “so that churches may know what legal options they have to improve security” in the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs tragedy.
“If a church decides to exclude the concealed or open carrying of handguns on the premises of church property, it may provide the requisite notice, thereby making it an offense for a license holder to carry a handgun on those premises,” Attorney General Paxton wrote in his opinion. “However, churches may instead decide not to provide notice and to allow the carrying of handguns on their premises. Unless a church provides effective oral or written notice prohibiting the carrying of handguns on its property, a license holder may carry a handgun onto the premises of church property as the law allows.”
Senate Bill 2065, which took effect September 1, exempts churches from state fees private institutions must pay to form their own security forces. The lesiglature ended the fees because they imposed a significant financial burden on smaller churches, such as the one in Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed last month in Texas’ worst mass shooting.
“The regulations of the Private Security Act, including the fees required thereunder, do not apply to Texas churches when providing volunteer security services consistent with the requirements of section 1702.333 of the Occupations Code,” Attorney General Paxton concluded.