It is no secret that Edwin Walker, an Independent Program Attorney with Texas Law Shield and a partner at the law firm of Walker & Byington, is on a mission to get improperly posted 30.06 signs taken down. Of the many take-down letters he has written, it is without a doubt letters to the zoos that have garnered him the most attention. Recently, the Texas Attorney General’s office made a ruling on a complaint sent in by Edwin as to whether or not the Dallas Zoo is able to legally post a 30.06 sign and otherwise forbid the lawful carrying of a handgun by LTC holders. We brought in Edwin to ask him a few questions about what happened, and to make sense of what’s going on.
We asked Edwin, first, what is the legal issue? Edwin started, “If you are a LTC holder in the state of Texas, you’ve heard of a 30.06 sign.” Edwin continued, “This sign, provided it meets the legal requirements, effectively gives notice that on certain premises an individual is not allowed to carry a concealed handgun into that establishment.”
He pointed out that some people don’t know that properties owned or leased by a governmental entity are not allowed to post 30.06 signs. “Of course, the law is never that easy, so there is an exception; the governmental entity may post a sign on property that is already off limits under 46.03 or 46.035, which are the traditional “can’t carry” statutes.”
“Since zoos are not listed as a prohibited place, and didn’t seem to fit into any of the actual prohibited places, it seemed pretty straight forward. I fully expected them to take the sign down with my letter alone.” Instead, Edwin informed us, the Dallas zoo hired a team of big firm lawyers to combat the take-down notice.
Both Edwin and the Dallas Zoo sent opinion letters to the Texas Attorney General’s office on this issue. The main concern was going to be whether or not it was considered an educational institution.
“Staring at monkeys does not give you a degree, no matter how the zoo cuts it,” Edwin said. The zoo certainly felt different. They believed that, since field trips were conducted on their property, it transformed them into an educational institution.
The Attorney General ruling said that…it didn’t matter! In a strange turn of events, rather than address the issue at hand, the Attorney General started talking about amusement parks (a level of diversion you will only find amongst the best attorneys!). The AG observed that the Dallas Zoo fits the size and gating requirement to be categorized as an amusement park, and have a carousel (which is subject to the Amusement Ride Safety Inspection Act). Therefore, in Ken Paxton’s eyes, the Dallas Zoo is considered an “amusement park” under 46.035. While no one thinks of this prohibition outside of Six Flags, if an amusement park posts a 30.06 sign, it is illegal to carry there. Since the AG found the Dallas Zoo to meet the requirements, it means their sign is valid and allowed to stay up.
However, not every zoo is so lucky! The Houston Zoo, for instance, does not meet the requirements to call itself an amusement park. When the AG gets around to processing the complaint for the Houston Zoo, he will finally have to address the issue of whether a zoo is an “educational institution” or not.
“The whole question over the educational institution is actually more important,” Edwin said. “Because there are very, very few places in Texas that can claim to be an amusement park. We may have lost a battle, but we may very well win the war.”