The State Legislature rejected two pieces of legislation that would have cleared a path to legally carry a gun on all state-owned property.
One of the bills would have allowed license holders to openly carry handguns, the other would have penalized zoos that improperly ban guns on government-owned property.
Edwin Walker, president of Texas Law Shield, a company that provides legal services to Texas gun owners, has been leading the fight to apply open carry gun laws at zoos. “This topic is not on the agenda for the special session,” he said. “We’re just gonna have to go back to the Attorney General’s Office with our inquiry as to why this has been sitting on their desk for almost two years and they haven’t made a ruling on it.”
Many zoos in Texas, like those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, claim to be exempt from open carry laws because they are protected by “gun-free zone” laws that allow schools, private businesses, amusement parks and educational institutions to ban weapons.
Walker filed a complaint against the Dallas Zoo who countered saying that it is considered both an amusement park and an educational institution. Walker said the zoo isn’t regulated by the Texas Education Agency, doesn’t issue degrees and doesn’t have amusement rides — so the argument doesn’t apply. And he said the punishments for Texans exerting their rights under open carry laws are outrageous. “If a license holder goes into one of these places that claims to be an educational institution they run the risk of being charged with a felony.”
Texas surpassed 1 million licensed concealed carry holders last year. The state has allowed licensed concealed handguns in public since 1995 and open carry laws went into effect in January of 2016.