Texas AG: Licensed gun owners can carry in church if not declared ‘gun free zone’

The shooting at Sutherland Springs last month resulted in 26 dead and another 20 injured while a neighbor, Stephen Willeford, responded to and exchanged fire with the shooter and was hailed for his actions. (Photo: San Antonio Current)

The shooting at Sutherland Springs last month resulted in 26 dead and another 20 injured while a neighbor, Stephen Willeford, responded to and exchanged fire with the shooter and was hailed for his actions. (Photo: San Antonio Current)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday weighed in on the regs for handgun licensees and security teams in places of worship across the Lone Star State.

In short, Paxton says that licensed handgun owners can legally carry loaded weapons into Texas churches so long as there is no declared gun-free zone at the facility. He also said a law passed by the state legislature earlier this year exempts churches from state fees typically charged when creating volunteer security teams.

“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,” Paxton said in his opinion on the subject. “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.”

The Texas Attorney General also said that voluntary security teams formed by churches are exempt from the state’s initial $400 private security fee on such groups and subsequent renewal costs.

Paxton was replying to questions posed by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick earlier this month in the aftermath of a shooting in Sutherland Springs in November that resulted in 26 dead and another 20 injured. During the incident, a neighbor, Stephen Willeford, responded to and exchanged fire with the shooter at the First Baptist Church and was hailed for his actions.