Zoo Protestors Support Governmental Extortion and Intimidation

            A few days ago, a small group of protesters gathered outside of the Houston Zoo to complain about the City of Houston’s order that unenforceable “no guns” signs be removed. These signs purported to be posted in compliance with Tex. Penal Code Section 30.06, but there’s a catch. Section 30.06(e) clearly states that such signs are unenforceable when posted on property owned or leased by a governmental entity or agency. (Section 30.06(e) was enacted in 2003.) Therefore, it has been perfectly legal for Concealed Handgun Licensees (CHLs) to carry their self-defense handguns in the Houston Zoo for over twelve years.

 History of Concealed-Carry and “No Gun” Signs

Concealed-carry of handguns was made legal in 1995 with the passage of SB60. At that time, the only criminal trespass statute was found in Tex. Penal Code §30.05. Due to the lack of specificity of the required notice and the ease with which small “no guns” signs or decals could be missed, the Legislature passed HB2909 in 1997. This Bill established Tex. Penal Code §30.06 that requires specific notice language and a minimum sign size to provide notice to CHLs. There was no restriction on the ability of governmental agencies or entities to post §30.06 signs, but since the Legislature had already established specific governmental property that was off-limits to CHLs, the expectation was that §30.06 signs would not be utilized by governmental entities.   Over the ensuring six years, the trust the Legislature had placed in governmental officials was proven to be a mistake.

            In 2003, the Legislature passed SB501 that created Tex. Penal Code §30.06(e). This subsection expressly renders unenforceable all §30.06 signs (and oral notice) on property owned or leased by a governmental agency or entity. The only exceptions apply to property that the Legislature has already rendered off-limits in Tex. Penal Code §§ 46.03 or 46.035 and zoos are not on the list of such places. Once again the Legislature trusted that local officials would honor the law and legislative intention and remove unenforceable signs. After all, why post a sign that is unenforceable? Once again, the Legislature’s trust was misplaced.

            For twelve years after enactment of SB501, local officials continued to post unenforceable §30.06 signs, including certain zoos like the Houston Zoo. Since these signs were unenforceable, the only motive for posting them is for intimidation purposes. Unconfirmed reports claim that some small cities and towns even instructed their police departments to arrest CHLs who legally ignore unenforceable signs, so that they “will take the ride.”

SB273 – Civil Fine for Governmental Agencies & Entities

            By 2015, the Legislature had had enough of intellectually dishonest local officials as well as intimidation and extortion of law-abiding CHLs. The 84th Legislature passed SB273 creating a civil fine to be collected from any governmental agency or entity that posts an unenforceable §30.06 sign. (Other signs are also covered, but that is beyond the scope of this article.) The fines for the first offense are either $1,000 or $1,500 per day per sign. Second offense fines are $10,000 or $10,500 per day per sign. There are notice provisions that must be met and governmental entities and agencies are provided time to remove the unenforceable signs.

 Houston Zoo Protest by MOMS

            In response to a complaint letter sent to the City of Houston, the Houston Zoo was ordered to remove any and all §30.06 signs. In response, a group of people protested outside the entrance to the Houston Zoo. When interviewed by a KHOU TV Channel 11 reporter, the arguments one heard were the same unfounded claims Second Amendment opponents have been spewing for years and that have proven to be false. One woman used the classic intro “I respect the Second Amendment and I support people carrying guns, but . . .” then launched into the typical Sarah Brady, Michael Bloomberg anti-gun lies.

            Others interviewed said they would not come to the Zoo again unless this “rule” was changed. The reporter interviewed a boy identified as “Sam” who appeared to be ten years old or younger and who repeated the Bloomberg spiel he undoubtedly was taught by his parents. To be fair to KHOU, they did interview two or three people who support and respect the law and have no problem with people carrying self-defense handgun at the zoo. They received far less airtime and the segment ended with “don’t tell that to Sam.”  The only thing that Sam got right was to credit the NRA for gun laws that respect the Second Amendment and support the ability of law-abiding citizens to carry self-defense handguns.

Do “MOMs” Support Governmental Extortion and Intimidation?

            The only way 30 to 40 people showed up at the Houston Zoo at the same time is through coordination. This coordination was likely carried out by one of the Bloomberg-supported sham organizations like MOMS Demand Action, Texas Gun Sense, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, etc. This is significant because it makes it virtually certain that the group of protesters knew that it has been perfectly legal for CHLs to carry self-defense handguns at the Houston Zoo for over twelve years.

            To someone that was unaware of the status of Texas law, people viewing the protest on TV were led to believe that Texas law was changed this year making it legal to carry handguns in the Zoo. In reality, SB273 finally forced governmental officials to stop trying to gain by extortion and intimidation that which the Texas Legislature had rejected. Since the Zoo protestors knew this, they were not only intentionally trying to deceive the public, they were supporting unethical and unlawful conduct by governmental officials. In short, the MOMs were advocating the continued intimidation of law-abiding CHLs.

This speaks volumes about the integrity of the Bloomberg-supported anti-gun/anti-freedom movement and organizations. They have a history of publishing outright lies and half-truths. Two of their witnesses that testified in the Texas Legislature this session committed perjury when they lied under oath. As a trial attorney of almost 30 years, I instructed every client and every witness not to even think about lying on the witness stand. I loved it when my opponent’s client or witnesses lied, because once I proved them to be a liar, they lost all credibility with the jury. “If you lied to me once, why should I ever believe anything you say” is the prevailing mindset among jurors. So it is with politics and legislative activism.

People should view the Houston Zoo protest for what it is – an attempt by Bloomberg-supported anti-gunners to deceive the public about the true impact and goals of the newly enacted law to stop governmental extortion and intimidation.