The City of Austin violated state law by banning licensed handgun holders from entering City Hall with firearms, a Travis County District Court judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Lora Livingston of the 261st Civil District Court fined the city $1,500 for each of six instances in which license holders were denied entry. The total fine was $9,000.
Attorney General Ken Paxton's office sued after Central Texas Gun Works owner Michael Cargill filed a complaint with the AG's office saying he had been denied entry to City Hall on several occasions.
Livingston cited a provision of Texas law that bans any state agency or political subdivision of the state from prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns in government buildings with a few exceptions, including at open government meetings or in government courts. The city had argued it should be allowed to ban guns from the building because it “maintains office space for court personnel.”
“This is a huge win, not only for citizens of Austin. This is a big win for the entire state of Texas,” said Cargill, a political activist and executive director of Texans for Accountable Government.
“We’re going to visit every and any county and municipality and county," he said, "and we’re going to file a complaint with the AG’s office, and we’re going to sue them."
“The city of Austin cannot violate the open carry law or any other law the Texas Legislature has enacted simply because they disagree with it,” Paxton said in a statement after the ruling.
In a statement, the city said it is disappointed with the ruling, "because City Hall is a multifunctional building that is at times a court facility, a polling place, a location for educational activities and the location of City Council meetings, all of which meet the state legislature’s conditions for restricting the carrying of handguns."
The city said it will continue to ban handguns when the law allows it and will change signs to make that clear.
It’s unclear if the city will appeal. It said its legal department is reviewing the ruling.