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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Zoo has reinstalled signs that prohibit carrying firearms into the zoo, three months after they were removed due to threat of legal action.
The Houston Chronicle reports Attorney Edwin Walker with Texas Law Shield sent a demand letter to the Houston Zoo, its corporate entity and the city’s parks and recreation department on Sept. 3 asking they take down all guns-prohibited signs at the zoo.
Once the signs were removed, zoo staff said they would consult with lawyers about what their next step should be.
Houston Zoo spokeswoman Jackie Wallace said the signs were put back because the zoo is an educational institution that exempts if from being forced to allow firearms within its gates. Wallace said the zoo has an Education Department that employs 17 professional educators.
“After consultation with legal counsel, the Houston Zoo, Inc. has concluded that Texas government code does not prohibit HZI from lawfully posting signs that ban weapons from its premises because HZI is – at its core – an educational institution,” Wallace wrote.
Walker, who called the signs “provocative,” was notified Tuesday of the reinstallation, and he said he plans to file a complaint with the Office of the Texas Attorney General. Walker said the zoo’s argument is flimsy because there is no curriculum, accreditation, or the ability to obtain a degree at the zoo
“This is clearly an act of desperation. They are hanging their hat on being an educational institution,” Walker said.
Residents may file complaints about unlawful gun restrictions by government entities to be forwarded to the state’s attorney general for potential fines. Local governments risk daily fines of up to $10,000, depending on the number of violations, if they fail to remove signage deemed illegal.
Walker said in his September letter that the zoo’s signs were in violation of a state code because even though the zoo is privately owned, it sits on property owned by the City of Houston.
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