ABILENE, Texas - The city of Abilene removed several signs that deemed city hall a gun-free zone Friday after a councilman rallied gun rights advocates to contact officials.
The signs had been installed earlier in the week in preparation for the new open carry law beginning Jan. 1. Councilman Steve Savage said he was disappointed when he saw the signs Thursday before the city council meeting.
He said the removal was a victory for Second Amendment advocates.
"I think it's huge," Savage said. "First of all we shouldn't have had to take the signs down because they shouldn't have gone up in the first place."
Savage also said the city official who ordered the signs put up should have contacted Abilene's elected officials before the decision was made.
"The way the council works is the city manager has to go in the direction the council gives them, and nobody talked to the council members -- that I'm aware of -- in regard to whether or not we want those signs or if the signs are even legal," Savage said.
The legality of the signs is a lingering question for the city. Savage believes the signs limited citizens' rights.
According to § 46.03 of the Texas Penal Code, firearms are prohibited on the premises of any government courts or offices utilized by the court.
Abilene City Hall and the city's municipal court are connected, so the legal status of the signage is not crystal clear.
Savage said because the sections of the building have separate entrances, they should be considered two different buildings. The court is not accessible through the inside of city hall.
In a statement released by the city Friday, City Manager Robert Hanna said it has contacted the State Attorney General's Office about the sign issue. Interim City Attorney Stanley Smith spoke with Captain Gregory Lucas with the Texas Attorney General's Office.
"Captain Lucas indicated that he believed the attorney general's opinion would be released in December, but that he believed the attorney general would recommend limiting the scope of the language in Sec. 46.03 to exclude only those areas directly related to court rooms, judge's chambers and the like," said City of Abilene Communications and Media Relations Manager Cheryl Sawyers in an email.
The statement also said Abilene isn't the only city in this unique situation.
Savage said he also reached out to the attorney general's office to file a complaint against the city.
"I reported that Abilene City Hall was in violation of the state code," Savage said.
Savage said if the attorney general does come back and say the signs are legal he will respect the decision, but he doesn't think that will be the case.
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