The following is a video transcript.
School is back in session, and you’re getting ready to drop your kids off for their first day. You drop off the older kids, park your car, and head inside the school building to walk your youngest to his new classroom. Having carried your handgun all summer, you forget that it’s still in your belt holster when you enter the school building. Have you committed a crime by carrying inside the school?
HAVE YOU COMMITTED A CRIME?
The short answer to this question is yes. It’s a crime to possess a firearm on or in the premises of a school, as well as on any grounds and buildings where a school-sponsored activity is taking place, unless it’s done and pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution.
In our scenario, the second you walk into the school building with your firearm, you’re committing a serious felony offense.
PREMISES AND PARKING LOTS
But is the law different when it comes to parking lots? Yes. Texas defines premises as a building or a portion of a building, but it doesn’t include a street, sidewalk, walkway, parking lot, parking garage or other parking areas. Generally speaking, LTC holders may keep their concealed handguns in a locked vehicle in school parking areas. Which leads us to another question we’re often asked: What about schools located within or on the grounds of a church or other place of religious worship?
Texas law allows LTC holders to carry their handguns into churches, synagogues, and other places of religious worship, unless effective 30.06 or 30.07 notice is provided. However, when the church also houses a school, the law becomes a bit murky.
In Texas these places are referred to as mixed-use premises, and whether you’re allowed to carry will depend on the legal classification of the particular mixed-use premises. If the church with a school is not owned by a state or independent school district, follow these general guidelines:
- If the mixed-use premises is being used as a school, you cannot carry.
- If the mixed-use premises is being used as a church, you may carry so long as the premises is NOT considered a school building and there is no notice prohibiting the carry of firearms.
The legal classification of mixed-use premises can be tricky. To be safe, obtain written authorization from the institution regarding when and where you can carry before you do, if at all.
DAYCARE FACILITIES AND AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS
What about daycare facilities or after school programs? A daycare in Texas is not considered an outright prohibited place, but they are generally required to post notice prohibiting the carry of firearms. This means that if you carry into a daycare facility it may be considered a trespass. The same rule applies to after-school programs. However, if the daycare or after-school program is located within a school or is regarded as a school-sponsored activity, carrying the firearm would be absolutely prohibited.
FEDERAL LAW AND GUN-FREE SCHOOL ZONES
And this brings us to federal law. Isn’t there a prohibition about carrying in a Gun-Free School Zone? The Federal Gun-Free School Zones law prohibits individuals from knowingly possessing a firearm that has moved through interstate commerce (which is virtually all firearms) in or on the grounds or within 1,000 feet of a public, parochial, or private school, unless an exception applies. The most common exceptions to the Federal Gun-Free School Zones laws in Texas are:
- Living within 1,000 feet of a school, so long as the person is not prohibited from possessing a firearm on their private property;
- Being a Texas LTC holder. Note this does not apply to Texas residents who hold a non-resident license or handgun permit from another state; or
- Carrying a firearm that is securely locked. This is a firearm that is unloaded and carried in a locked case or other type of locked container, such as a glove box or trunk.
We hope you found this information helpful and wish you a safe start to the school year. For any questions concerning carrying in the areas we’ve discussed, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.