In January 2016, on the first day of the partial restoration of open carry rights in Texas, I stood in front of the Benbrook Police Station, looking at the recently placed 30.06 and 30.07 signs . . .
I noticed that the signs are likely not enforceable in a court of law; they were not of the required dimensions. But police, like fire in the quote attributed to President Washington, are “dangerous servants and a fearful master. ” I tread lightly around police, just as I do around high explosives or high-powered machinery. All are extremely useful. All require proper care, caution, respect, and effective safeguards.
A couple of days later, sans Glock and holster, I entered the department to determine the origin of the signs, and the reasons for their obviously recent emplacement. I talked to an agreeable sergeant. The public relations officer had just retired. The sergeant very kindly gave me the police chief’s email, suggesting that such policies were above his pay grade. I contacted Chief James Mills, and asked him who made the decision to put up the signs, and what was the purpose and expected benefit?
Chief Mills was kind enough to reply. He said that the foyer of the police office is also the waiting area for the Municipal Court. Here’s the paragraph about his decision to post the “gun free zone” signs:
It was my decision to post the 30.06 and 30.07 signs. There was nothing controversial about the decision, as state law already prohibited the carrying of firearms onto this premises. The signs were simply a measure to ensure license holders are aware they are entering the premises of a government court. Of course, the desired benefit would be compliance with state law. I hope this helps with your article. Thank you for your kind words about Sgt. Gray. I will make sure to pass it along.
James Mills, Chief of Police
Benbrook Police Department
1080 Mercedes Benbrook, Texas 76126
I remain skeptical of Chief Mills’s decision. I see nothing in state law that requires him to post the signs, nor do I see any benefit, as I don’t see any state law being broken by the presence of legally armed citizens in the police foyer. Before the open carry law, no 30.06 sign was posted. It appears that the Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, agrees with me. From abajournal.com:
Rather than simply the area bounded by the courthouse walls, Paxton’s view of what premises include means “that people with a license to carry should be able to go into [the] courthouse in non-essential areas,” Shannon Edmonds, who serves as director of governmental relations at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told the station. “I think most counties don’t read the law that way, but some of them are taking steps to comply with the opinion, even if they don’t agree with it, because they don’t want to get sued.”
In September, the state legislature authorized the AG to sue government entities that ban firearms improperly in their buildings, and it appears from Paxton’s views on the definition of courthouse premises that they could potentially be subjects of enforcement, the article explains. The attorney general’s homepage has a prominent link for citizens to report government entities which may be unlawfully prohibiting concealed firearms.
I haven’t seen the Benbrook police department listed among those who have had complaints filed against them with AG Paxton, at least not yet. But I will not be surprised if I find them on such a list, eventually.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.