Guns in the Pews? Churches have the right to choose

by John Litzler on March 26, 2015 in Church Admin

Beginning January 1, 2016, Texans with a handgun license will be allowed to openly carry their handguns. Churches in Texas may prevent handgun license holders from carrying handguns inside church buildings as long as the church gives proper notice. Each church may decide for itself whether to allow:

  1. Both open and concealed carry of handguns
  2. Concealed carry of handguns but not open carry
  3. Open carry of handguns and not concealed carry
  4. No handguns regardless of whether they are carried openly or concealed

A church does not need to take any action if it wishes to allow handgun license holders to conceal carry or open carry in church buildings. If permitting handgun license holders to conceal carry or open carry on church premises is a cause of concern to your church, Texas Penal Code Sections 30.006 and 30.007 provide clear rules for notifying handgun license holders that your church is a gun-free zone or concealed carry only.

In order to provide notice that a church prohibits either concealed carry or open carry the church must provide written communication to gun license holders. This written communication may be done in one of two different ways. Either churches may provide notice on a document that is handed out to all members and guests as they enter the building (e.g. a church bulletin or worship guide) or churches may post a sign on the property.

If the church chooses to notify license holders by posting a sign, the sign must be in both English and in Spanish, appear in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height, and be displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public. Regardless of whether a church chooses to provide notice through a document, sign, or both, the language for the written communication must be identical to the following:

To prohibit concealed carry:

"Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun."*

To prohibit open carry:

"Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly."

It is important to know that, in this context, church "premises" do not include a public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area. This means that even if a church provides notice through a written document or by posting a sign, handgun license holders may bring their handguns onto church property, but not into church buildings.

Keep following the office of Church Administration on social media and our website for updates and always feel free to call us if you have any questions about legal issues your church is facing.

*Note that the language required to provide 30.06 notice has changed. Churches that currently display signs providing 30.06 notice should update the language to reflect the changes required by law.

This is a reposting of an article originally published on March 26, 2015. The article has been updated to reflect changed to the law that occurred during the 2015 Texas legislative session.

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