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Judge keeps guns out of Waller County courthouse

A judge’s ruling that upholds Waller County’s ban on guns in its courthouse keeps the southeast Texas county at odds with the state attorney general.

State District Judge Albert McCaig Jr. ruled this week in a lawsuit by a gun rights supporter who wanted county officials to remove signs warning visitors to the courthouse in Hempstead that firearms are prohibited.

State attorney General Ken Paxton has said the government entities that cannot be penalized for posting such signs include “a government courtroom or those offices essential to the operation of the government court.” But McCaig’s decision interpreted that to prohibit “all firearms and other weapons in the entire government building that houses a court.”

State law already bars firearms from “the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court.” The Waller County Courthouse, where McCaig has a courtroom and offices, also houses the county’s administrative offices, an arrangement common in many Texas county courthouses.

“This was not, and still is not, a matter of Waller County, or any member of Waller County’s Commissioners Court, being anti-gun or anti-carry in any way,” Waller County Judge Trey Duhon told the Houston Chronicle. “Waller County’s decision in this matter was simply to enforce the law exactly as it was intended by the Texas Legislature.”

Paxton, who has filed his own lawsuit against the county, said McCaig’s ruling that resolved a suit involving Terry Holcomb Sr., founder of the group Texas Carry, makes “a mockery of legislative democracy.”

Holcomb, who started the legal fight in May with a letter requesting removal of the courthouse signs, said he’s appealing McCaig’s ruling.

“I have no doubt that the Court of Appeals will reject the trial judge’s usurpation of law and apply the statutes as written,” Paxton said.

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