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Texas Church Security: Ruling on Safety in a Place of Worship

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued the opinion for the provision of legal options regarding the improvement of church security in Texas. According to an article by Texas Monthly, following the state’s worst mass shooting, the state attorney general issued a legal opinion identifying that people with a Texas License to Carry may bring a handgun into a church provided the institution hasn’t already given visitors advanced and proper notice that firearms are not allowed on the premises.

The opinion was requested by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick following the brutal murder of 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs by a lone gunman on November 5. This incident ignited a huge debate on the merits of church security for the protection of worshippers (volunteer or professional.) In his official opinion, Paxton wrote, “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. 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.”

He also ruled that a church that establishes its own volunteer security team would be exempt from payment of the required Private Security Act fees, which clarified a new piece of legislation implemented on September 1. The normal process for any place to ban the carrying of a firearm includes the posting of a visible sign written in both official languages (Spanish and English) which reads: “Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.”