Can a parent possess a gun while he drops his child off at school?

Happy New Year, Readers!!  The Dawg hopes you had a rejuvenating and restful holiday break, and that you woke up this morning eager to take on the challenge of a brand new year.  Whether you woke up in that positive frame of mind or not, 2016 is here. So let’s turn our attention to what happened while you were opening presents and drinking eggnog.  We got an AG’s Opinion about “open carry” and public schools.

Here is the takeaway quote:

In sum, Penal Code subsection 46.03(a)(1) prohibits weapons, including handguns, from places on which a school-sponsored activity is being conducted, which places can include grounds otherwise excluded from the definition of “premises” such as public or private driveways, streets, sidewalks or walkways, parking lots, parking garages, or other parking areas.

We already knew that guns are prohibited inside of school buildings. This Opinion addresses the possession of guns outside of the building but on the grounds. The AG tells us that the key is whether or not a “school-sponsored activity” is being conducted.  In the Opinion, Mr. Paxton says that this is a “fact question” which cannot be resolved through an AG Opinion. But he offers an example:

For instance, if a high school utilizes a school parking lot for a band rehearsal, that parking lot would likely fall within the scope of subsection 46.03(a)(1) prohibiting weapons during the time of the rehearsal.  Yet, the other parking areas at the school where school activities are not occurring would not fall within subsection 46.03(a)(1) and would not be places where weapons are prohibited.

So what about morning drop off and afternoon pick up?  Here comes Harry Handgun, proud owner of a license to carry.  He’s got his gun properly concealed in his car.  He is legal all day long, driving around the State of Texas with his firearm in the car.  He can leave it in the car at his workplace parking lot.  But is it illegal for him to have the concealed weapon in the car with him as he drops his child off at school?

The answer to that question will depend on how the local district defines “school-sponsored activity.”  We expect some districts will define that term to include parent drop off and pick up.  In a district like that, Harry would have to leave the gun at home, or drop his child off just outside of district boundaries. We expect other districts will choose not to adopt a definition quite that expansive, thus permitting Harry to drive onto school grounds with his concealed handgun.

No doubt questions will persist on this, so let us know if we can help you with the crafting of local policy, the rules about signage, or other gun-related issues.

The opinion is KP-0050, issued December 21, 2015.