The City of Houston has ordered the Houston Zoo to remove a "no guns" sign from its premises. Though the zoo is privately owned, the land the zoo is situated on is owned by the City of Houston, thus making the zoo subject to a Texas law that allows licensed handgun owners to carry their concealed weapons on publicly-owned property.
The Texas Law Shield, a prominent Texas gun rights advocacy legal firm, initiated the controversy when their attorney, Edwin Walker, sent a letter to the Houston Zoo and to the Houston's parks and recreation department demanding that they remove all signs prohibiting guns from the zoo.
The 'no guns' sign is a 30.06 sign, which business owners may use to forbid concealed handgun license holders from bringing their firearms onto the premises. The 30.06 sign refers to 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code, which prohibits concealed handgun license holders from carrying their weapons in locales with 30.06 in plain view.
However, attorney Walker pointed out that the zoo's 30.06 sign violated the Texas Government Code §411.209 due to the fact that the land the zoo was built upon is actually owned by the City of Houston itself. That means that the Houston Zoo is not a place where concealed handguns or other firearms would be prohibited in the first place under Texas' Penal Code.
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Zoo officials released a statement saying: "Effective immediately, the Houston Zoo will not ask anyone who is lawfully permitted to carry a concealed legal hand-gun to stow their weapon in their vehicle while visiting the zoo. We do recognize that this has the potential to confuse or concern our guests and members and we want to emphasize that this will not alter our number-one priority, which is the safety of our guests, employees and animals.”
Officials from the Houston Zoo also expressed that they were under the impression that the zoo was an educational institution - under state law, guns may not be carried at places defined as "educational institutions," such as schools.
In a statement to KHOU, the Houston Zoo also said that the zoo served as a place many children and families would go to learn about animals, and that last year, the zoo had more than 200,00 school children visiting on official field trips and educational programs.
Walker told the Law Blog that he was "very pleased" with the outcome.
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Photo credit: The Wall Street Journal