Ken Paxton f*cks with City Hall again

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Ken Paxton. Courtesy of Wiki Commons.

The last time we heard from our indicted attorney general, he was teaming up with Fred Lewis to save us from having too many planning experts on the Planning Commission. Paxton’s next step in bringing Austin city government into the 21st century: getting rid of gun restrictions at City Hall.

A Travis County district court ruled Thursday that Austin violated the state’s open carry law by barring residents from bringing firearms into its city hall — a blow to Austin officials who have long argued that the ban was admissible under the law’s “government court” exception.

“The district court’s ruling preserves and protects the Second Amendment rights of Texans and sends a strong message to the city of Austin that they are bound by the same laws as all other Texans,” Paxton wrote. “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.”

I reached out to the city to get more insight on what this means at City Hall. Spokesman Andy Tate says that the city has yet to determine whether it will appeal the ruling. I asked about whether guests will still have to walk through metal detectors at the building’s entrance. His response:

“(T)he handgun ban will remain in effect during those times when the legislature’s limitations allow (i.e. when the building is being used as a court facility, polling place, or for educational activities or City Council meetings). The metal detectors will stay in place as they are used to screen for a range of illegal items.”

He provided an additional statement from the city expressing disappointment in the ruling:

 “We are disappointed 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.”

My understanding is that currently at the Capitol, there are metal detectors. But those with open carry permits can evade the metal detectors altogether.

Similarly, back when I was a reporter in Wisconsin, the Capitol typically didn’t have any metal detectors/security checkpoint at the entrances. But in response to labor protests in 2011, Republicans put them in place. And yet, at the same time, the legislature voted to allow guns in the Capitol, including in the state Assembly floor and gallery.

I don’t view the metal detectors now to be a particularly effective deterrent to serious violence, but I do enjoy gabbing with some of the security guards on my way in. Just the other day I got into a lengthy conversation with one of the guards over our mutual interest in the Balkans. That reminds me that I have to bring a novel by Bosnian writer Ivo Andric, The Days of the Consuls, to the next Council meeting for him to borrow.

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