Fight over open carry rages on at Austin City Hall

Michael Cargill takes his gun rights seriously. “I have a .45, a .38 special that are concealed and then I also have this 1911 that's carried in an openly fashion,” he says. So, to say the owner of Central Texas Gun Works is well versed in gun laws is an understatement. “The law is very clear,” he explains, “It says under the penal code 46.03 that cities and municipalities, the only way they can prohibit license holders from carrying is if it's an open meeting .”

There is also another law that Cargill believes is clear, that it's unlawful to post 30.06 signs on government buildings. There was still posted at Austin City Hall the day the law went into effect on September 1, 2015.

“We got the City of Austin to take their sign down,” Cargill says, adding, “after that the City of Austin said we'll give you verbal notice because we are a courthouse. They were citing the fact that the community court meets one day a month.”

When Cargill was barred from entering City Hall with his gun, even though he is licensed, he  filed a complaint with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office. On July 8, 2016, General Paxton ruled in Cargill's favor. He sent a letter to city officials, addressed to Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Paxton also stated in the letter, the city could be penalized up to a $1500 a day fine for each day they continued to violate the law. On July 27, 2016, General Paxton filed suit against the City of Austin to force them to comply with the law.

“I've made several attempts to walk into City Hall carrying a handgun under the handgun license law and I’ve been turned away,” Cargill says. So on March 2, the Office of the Attorney General sent another warning letter. It was addressed to Interim City Manager Elaine Hart. It also reminds city officials their penalties are still accruing.

“This is about the Constitution,” says Cargill, “This is about all of our Constitutional rights and I take that very seriously.”

He says he will fight to the finish for those rights. “The city of Austin needs to follow the law. Just like me as a citizen, I have to follow the law, they have to do the same.”

A city spokesperson says they can't comment on pending litigation but they stand by their reasoning to prohibit licensed gun owners from carrying in City Hall:

“It is a criminal offense under Texas state law to possess or carry a weapon, including a handgun carried by a person licensed to carry it, on the premises of a government court or offices used by the court.  Because a part of the City of Austin Municipal Court conducts court proceedings in the Austin City Hall building, and the City maintains an office at City Hall for the chief Municipal Court prosecutor, we believe state law prohibits possessing or carrying a weapon in that building (except by law enforcement personnel).”