Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit Thursday against his own state’s capital city of Austin for pushing back against open carry laws.
“I will always make sure that governments do not trample on the Second Amendment rights of Texans, and if they do, we will sue,” Paxton said in a statement.
The suit alleges that the city was illegally prohibiting people who are legally carrying handguns from entering the City Hall.
The suit invokes a Texas state law that prohibits any local authority or state-run agency from posting signs informing licensed gun carriers that they are forbidden from bringing their guns on the premises.
The city argued in a letter in June that the City Hall fell under an exemption to the law granted to government court buildings and buildings with court offices. The AG’s office countered that it was “unable to determine which government court or office utilized by a government court, if any, is located within the city hall building,” in a letter dated Jul. 5.
According to the statute, the city could be forced to pay $1,000-$1,500 per day of violation for the first infraction, and $10,000-$10,500 for any subsequent infraction.
In Sept. 2015 the state AG received a complaint from a citizen that the Austin City Hall had signs prohibiting licensed gun owners from carrying; the matter was dropped when the city removed the signs in March.
In April, the state AG received a complaint from a citizen that the city still was using “oral warnings” from uniformed security guards to tell gun carriers not to bring their weapons into the building. The complainant also noted the “display of a permanent etched glass ‘no guns’ sign,” according to the AG’s brief.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and city council members are named as defendants in their official capacities as local government leaders.
We reached out to the city of Austin’s attorney for comment and will update if we receive a response.
UPDATE — 07/29, 4:40 p.m.ET: A city spokesperson returned this comment:
The City’s position has remained consistent. It is a criminal offense under Texas law to possess or carry a handgun on the premises of a government court or offices used by the court. Because the City of Austin Municipal Court conducts court proceedings in the Austin City Hall building and maintains office space for court personnel we believe state law prohibits possessing or carrying a weapon in City Hall (except by law enforcement personnel). We are prepared to defend this lawsuit and look forward to having this matter resolved by a court.