Commissioners expected to weigh in on open carry
By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record
Tuesday’s meeting of the Orange County Commissioners was canceled due to lack of a quorum, so next week’s meeting should have a full agenda.
Although commissioners were unable to take any action at the last scheduled meeting for 2015, next week’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, should have the same agenda. This includes the topic of carrying a handgun various Orange County courtrooms and facilities.
The item on Tuesday’s agenda was to discuss and possibly take action on authorizing the placement of signs regulating the carrying of a handgun into an Orange County courtroom, offices essential to operation of a court as decided upon by the County Judge and the Commissioners Courtroom.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, a person may carry any handgun openly or concealed, but must be licensed by Texas or a state with reciprocity in order to do so. The handgun must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster, according to state law.
Open carry of firearms is prohibited at businesses and locations which display legal restrictions signs, such as those for Section 30.06 and Section 30.07 of the penal code.
The Section 30.06 sign applies to those with a concealed handgun and prohibits the carrying of a weapon even with a concealed handgun license. The sign for Section 30.07 will ban open carry. Both are prohibited by businesses or locations displaying both signs, which are listed in English and Spanish.
Open carry may go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, but licensed gun owners will not be able to carry openly in every location, especially schools, hospitals and medical complexes, nursing homes and many other locations which will remain gun-free zones.
In an opinion issued by Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, on Dec. 21, Paxton stated “the responsible authority that would notify license holder of their inability to carry on the respective premises must make the determination of which government courtrooms and offices are essential to the operation of the government court, in consultation with the government court.”
Since commissioners could not meet Tuesday, there will be no official decision by county officials in place prior to Jan. 1, 2016. However, according to Douglas E. Manning, Assistant County Attorney, state provisions are.
“By statute, a person cannot carry (a concealed handgun) inside a courtroom anyway,” Manning said following the cancellation of Tuesday’s meeting. “There are ‘black and white’ areas which are covered until the (commissioners) court makes a ruling, as well as grey areas which law enforcement can make determinations on if there are any issues.”
Manning said he will present a synopsis of opinions which have been gathered from the Attorney General and various other governmental entities across the state of Texas to Commissioners Court at the next meeting for them to make an informed decision.
“We will just convey that information to Commissioners Court and let them make the decision,” he said.