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Texas residents now can legally carry guns in church

December 27, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Texas residents now can legally carry guns in church

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On Thursday, the Texas Attorney General revealed that residents licensed to carry guns could bring their firearms to religious services if certain conditions are met. The official opinion also excuses religious institutions from state fees imposed on private organizations which maintain a security presence.

General Paxton told Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in an advisory opinion that a licensed worshiper can carry guns onto a religious entity’s property if the institution does not provide notice to attendees that such items are prohibited. Unless the provisions under Sections 30.06 and 30.07 of the Penal Code are met, Texans may legally carry concealed or visible weapons.

If a house of worship employs a building in a rental capacity, attendees must abide by the property owner’s existing notice, according to the Texas Tribune.

“To the extent a church operates on property other than its own, it should consult with the owner to determine the extent to which it may prohibit or allow handguns,” Paxton said.

Separately, General Paxton agreed that churches and other religious institutions are no longer subjected to licensing fees, should they wish to utilize a volunteer security forces.

In September of this year, Senate Bill 2065 went into effect, excusing the $400 fee for such arrangements and any annual renewal expenses owed to the State, which reportedly runs $225 after that. The opinion notes that to qualify for the fee exemption, unpaid volunteers may not sport uniforms, badges, or insignia that would generate the appearance they are “peace officers” or other authorities.

Both Paxton and Patrick recognized the weight of the matters in their writings by referencing the tragic shooting that took place in November. Devin Patrick Kelley walked into the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church armed with a AR-15 and opened fire on worshipers at close range. Kelley eventually murdered 26 and left dozens more wounded, including children.

Kelley was forced out of the church when a barefoot neighbor, Stephen Willeford, fired intervening shots and later got involved in a car pursuit with the help of an unfamiliar passing motorist. The former National Rifle Association trainer reportedly saw Kelley’s vehicle swerve off the road after the church shooter turned his weapon on himself.

Given the new legislation and traumatizing events in Sutherland Springs, Patrick asked that his requests for clarity be expedited “so that churches may know what legal options they have to improve security.”

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