King John Would Be Envious

It is widely held that, in 1215, a group of barons put a sword to King John’s throat to help him see the wisdom of signing the Magna Carta.  In truth the history of the Magna Carta is more complicated.  Complexity aside, the traditional narrative is close enough for present purposes.  Among the provisions of the Magna Carta was that the King himself had to obey some laws.  We’re 800 years down the road, but the word is slow to percolate through to Bexar County and the City of San Antonio.

Albert Uresti, the Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector, has the following sign posted at his office on Nacogdoches Road in San Antonio:

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The City of San Antonio has the following sign posted at City Hall:

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The signs are an apparent attempt to take advantage of Section 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code, which permits property owners to exclude persons carrying weapons under the authority of a concealed handgun license.  Albert Uresti’s sign seems a good-faith attempt to comply with the sign requirements of 30.06.  The City’s sign is not.

If the law were as it was in 2001, the City and the Tax Assessor-Collector would be authorized to exclude persons carrying under a concealed handgun license.  In Attorney-General Opinion JC-0325 dated January 5, 2001, then Attorney General John Cornyn opined that local governments were as free as private parties to avail themselves of Section 30.06.  But that was in 2001.

In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 501, which added subsection (e) to section 30.06.  The added subsection provides:

It is an exception to the application of this section that the property on which the license holder carries a handgun is owned or leased by a governmental entity and is not a premises or other place on which the license holder is prohibited from carrying the handgun under Section 46.03 or 46.035.

Neither of the above signs are protected by either Penal Code Section 46.03 or Section 46.035.  Thus, neither of the above signs is authorized by law.  The signs represent attempts to exclude people unlawfully.

Reasonable minds may differ on the wisdom of the Texas concealed handgun law.  But even those believing the law is grossly wrong should nevertheless agree that the government itself is bound by law.  The government is the entity that creates law and enforces it against us.  It is quick to slap us down if we deviate.  As a general principle, that is a good thing.  But by what right does the government enforce the law against the governed if the government itself is lawless?  Those putting up these signs undermine their own legitimacy and should be ashamed of themselves.

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