Q: An employee with a concealed handgun license informed the campus principal that he will be carrying his handgun in his car and in the school building “as provided for in the new laws.” Does recent legislation allow him to do so?
A: Yes and No. House Bill 1143 and 1791 outlined new measures related to firearms. HB 1143 permits the employee to carry and store his firearm in his vehicle, but the employee cannot remove the weapon from his vehicle and bring it inside the building.
House Bill 1143 and 1791 address new rules related to firearms and notices prohibiting firearms. First, HB 1143 provides that, effective September 1, 2019, a school district may not prohibit a person (including an employee) who holds a license to carry a handgun (“CHL”) from parking on school grounds while transporting or storing a firearm, handgun, or ammunition, so long as the vehicle is locked and the item is not in plain view. The new law dictates specifically that a school district may not regulate the manner in which the handgun, firearm, or ammunition is stored in the locked vehicle; only that the item is not visible. Thus, the employee in the above hypothetical, who has a CHL, would be permitted to keep his handgun in his vehicle so long as the car is locked and the gun cannot be seen through the windows. Moreover, a school district cannot attempt to regulate such storage, such as by mandating that the item be placed in the trunk or another locked compartment inside the locked vehicle.
Second, House Bill 1791, effective September 1, 2019, modifies the notice of prohibited firearm provisions to align with the above CHL change. HB 1791 prevents school districts from posting notices of trespass in the parking lot or driveway entrances of school grounds. Instead, districts may only post a no firearms/ trespass notice at the building entrances. This measure ensures that CHL holders are allowed to bring and store their firearm as provided for by HB 1143. Thus, the employee in the above hypothetical would be prohibited from bringing the firearm from his vehicle into the building since it is unlawful under Texas Penal Code Section 46.03.
For specific questions pertaining to firearms and related notices, please contact your local school attorney.