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Paxton sues Austin over open carry

No subtext at all to this, I’m sure.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the city of Austin in Travis County district court, trying to force the city to comply with his reading of the state’s open carry law and allow license holders to openly carry handguns in city hall.

After the open carry law took effect in January, Austin banned firearms in its city hall under the law’s “government court” exception, which prohibits them “on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court,” unless a written regulation or the individual court authorizes it.

Paxton argues in the lawsuit filed Wednesday that Austin City Hall does not qualify for the exemption and shouldn’t be posting signs banning licensed carriers from carrying in the building or on the premises.

In the suit, Paxton says a citizen complained in September that Austin City Hall displayed signs prohibiting licensed firearms. The office states it closed that case in March after the city removed the signs. In April, though, another person filed a complaint against the city because “no guns” signs had been posted, and people were being given oral warnings against the carrying of handguns on the premises.

The Austin Chronicle lays out the history.

The suit contends that the city of Austin stands in violation of Texas Government Code 411.209 (the statute that prohibits state agencies and political subdivisions from prohibiting licensed holders from openly carrying on its premises). It arrives nearly 11 months after Michael Cargill, a former Council candidate and owner of Central Texas Gun Works, filed a complaint with Paxton’s office alleging that the city violated the aforementioned statute when it hung a “30.06” sign (those ever-increasingly present signs saying that you can’t open carry on a particular premise) on the front doors of City Hall.

At the time, city spokesman Bryce Bencivengo told the Chronicle the city had precedent to ignore the 411.209 statute because City Hall houses the meetings of Council, most boards and commissions, and certain hearings by the Downtown Community Court. Texas Penal Code, Sec. 46.03 bans guns from “the premises of any government court of offices utilized by the court.”

Paxton dropped Cargill’s complaint on March 30 after learning that city officials had removed the 30.06 signage, but reopened investigation in early April when the city doubled down on its stance with a permanent glass sign barring open carry. Paxton also writes that “oral warnings prohibiting the carry of handguns” were issued to individuals at City Hall.

On June 16, the city responded to a letter Paxton had sent to officials two months earlier saying that it believed Austin’s stance on guns at City Hall stood in concert with the bylaws laid out in Texas Penal Code, Sec 46.03 but, as Paxton writes, “provided no authority for its assertion that Austin City Hall is a government court.” The AG sent a final notice of violation on July 5, giving the city 15 days to welcome guns inside its central building. That hasn’t happened, so now Paxton’s filed this suit.

In addition to a general request that the court order the city to allow guns inside of City Hall, Paxton also seeks a fine of $1,500 for every day after Mon., July 25, that the city’s in violation of the statute.

Three things in life are certain: Death, taxes, and Ken Paxton will put pandering to the Republican primary crowd above all other considerations. Which doesn’t mean he’ll lose here – Lord only knows what the Supreme Court will make of this, because we know that’s where this will eventually end up. it’s just that of all the things he could be doing with his time and resources, this is what he chose to prioritize. We’ll see if he’s still in office by the time there’s a final resolution. The Statesman has more.

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