East Texas officials concerned over Open Carry Law and government buildings

East Texas officials concerned over Open Carry Law and government buildings
Soure: KTRE Staff
Soure: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The new open carry law is raising concerns among East Texas law enforcement and government officials.

The open carry law will go into effect on Jan.1 and would allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry a hand gun in the open. Angelina County Greg Sanches said he is concerned that open carry could bring up unwanted issues and security concerns in courthouses.

"No guns are allowed in the courthouse," Sanches said. "We will keep it that way until the Attorney General makes a ruling that says we cannot. It is a safety concern."

Houston County Attorney Daphne Session said the concern is over the fact that while open carry is not allowed inside of a court room, under the current interpretation of the law, open carry would be allowed in the other areas of the court house.

"That is concerning," Session said. "We are a small town and we are in the same halls as these people and we use the same elevator. It poses a serious safety risk."

On Dec. 8, the Smith County Commissioners voted to ban open carry for buildings that had a courtroom inside of them. On Dec. 22, Houston County commissioners will consider the same thing.

"I am definitely a gun rights advocate, but I think there are places that don't lend themselves to have weapons," Houston County Judge Erin Ford said. "We need to make sure people are safe and can be in the court house and feel safe."

Sanches said there is protection at the courthouse and open carry inside of a building that houses elected officials is not the place for the law.

"To me it is common sense," Sanches said. "That's the reason why we have metal detectors and that's why we hired security, deputies here in the courthouse, bailiffs and other law enforcement officers that come in and watch after the security. "

Session said emotions run high at courthouses and having someone with a gun is not always a good idea. Session knows first hand. She was an assistant district attorney in Smith County back in 2005 when a gunman opened fire outside of the Smith County Courthouse following a family court case.

"It causes problems," Session said. "It will continue to cause problems. Even if it is a very small risk, who wants to run that risk?"

Sanches said he understands that there are still many questions ,to the open carry law which is why his office will be holding a community forum on Dec. 29 at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center to address the concerns. The forum is free and will begin at 11 a.m.

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