Business and private property owners in Texas who wish to prohibit concealed handgun holders from carrying concealed handguns often post signs meant to notify patrons that all firearms, including concealed handguns, are prohibited on the premises. These signs come in many different forms, and include, for example, “Gun buster” signs — signs with handguns circled and lined through in red, as well as other signs with various warnings written out. However, business and property owners looking to prevent License to Carry holders from carrying concealed handguns on their property are limited to one type of “No Gun” sign — the “30.06 sign” — and contrary to what many property owners may think, these signs have very specific requirements that must be met in order for the sign to be legally effective.
Appropriately, Texas Penal Code Section 30.06 lays out the requirements for “30.06 signs.” The statute provides that a License to Carry holder carrying a concealed handgun on another person’s property pursuant to his or her handgun license, commits the crime of criminal trespass when they: 1) have not received effective consent to carry the concealed handgun on the property, and 2) have received notice from the property owner that either entry on the property with a concealed handgun was not allowed; or that after having entered the premises, remaining on the property with a concealed handgun is forbidden; and the license holder fails to leave the property.
The first of these elements — that a license holder has not received effective consent — refers to a License to Carry holder who is on another’s property without the permission of either the property owner or someone who is legally authorized to act for the owner. Essentially, this means that the owner, or someone with his authority, has not explicitly given an individual license holder the right to carry their concealed handgun on the property, and it is not reasonable for the license holder to assume they may carry a concealed handgun on the property. If there is no notice given that carrying is prohibited, and you are otherwise lawfully permitted on that property, your carrying a gun is legal. If a “30.06 sign” is posted, but a property owner verbally consents to a person carrying, effective consent is established.
What is notice?
The second element — that a license holder receive notice either that (1) License to Carry holders with concealed handguns are forbidden from entering the property, or (2) that they may not continue to stay on the property after entering it while in possession of a concealed handgun — is the element that more frequently causes concern and leads to questions from many license holders.
Section (b) of TPC 30.06 states that a person is considered to have received notice if the owner of the property, or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner, provides notice by oral or written communication that the carrying of a concealed handgun is prohibited. For instance, notice is given when a business or property owner verbally informs a license holder that concealed handguns are not allowed on the property. More commonly, a business or property owner will provide one of two forms of written communication — a card or other written document given to the individual, or a posted sign displayed to the public.
A card or other written document given to a license holder must contain the following text in English, word-for-word:
“Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun”
If a property owner chooses to give written notice to everyone entering the property without having to notify each person individually, they can choose to post a sign. A “30.06 sign” must contain the following: 1) the proper statutory language (written above) in both English and Spanish; 2) words posted in block letters; 3) that are one-inch in height; 4) appearing in contrasting colors; and 5) the sign must be displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.
Questions of Interpretation
Despite having a number of specific requirements, the language of the statute, while appearing to be clear, may unfortunately raise a lot of questions about what a proper “30.06 sign” should look like. The potential for different interpretations of the statute has led to many “30.06 signs” being posted in businesses around the state that may not actually comply with the specific legal requirements of the statute, and thus are technically ineffective at providing notice.
For example, a sign posted in a restaurant may have the correct language in both English and Spanish, but it may have block letters that are only half an inch tall, falling short of the 1” height requirement; or, the sign may have the correct wording in block letters 1” high, but the letters are orange, and the background is in yellow, thus raising the question of whether the text sufficiently “contrasts” with the background. Further, suppose that a 30.06 warning in both English and Spanish is posted in white letters affixed to the clear glass window of a convenience store. Does this warning constitute a proper “sign,” and if so, are the white letters considered to be contrasting with the clear window?
A 30.06 sign is required to be displayed in a “conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.” How exactly is this to be accomplished? The statute does not specify exactly where a 30.06 sign should be posted on property. Should a sign be posted at every entrance of a business, so that any license holder coming into the building is immediately made aware that they may not legally carry a concealed handgun on the property? Does a sign posted behind the counter of a hostess’ station at a restaurant meet the definition of “conspicuous and clearly visible?”
Unfortunately, in the seventeen years that the statute has been in effect, there have been no Texas Court of Criminal Appeals or appellate court cases that provide any interpretation of the specifics of the statute. This leaves license holders at risk of being arrested for criminal trespass, even when a sign may not comply with the law! It is a Class C misdemeanor to ignore the 30.06 sign, however, refusing to leave when directed to can lead to arrest and charges of criminal trespass by a License to Carry holder faces a Class A misdemeanor, which carries with it a potential sentence of one year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
A license holder may be able to raise the defense at trial that the sign was noncompliant, and thus they did not receive proper notice as required by the statute. To do this, they need to be able to articulate specific facts that support their notion that they did not receive adequate notice. Ultimately, however, it is going to be up to a judge or jury to decide whether or not the license holder did in fact receive notice from a sign. A jury may determine that even if the sign did not meet the exact legal specifications in the statute, it was “close enough” to provide notice that license holders could not carry their concealed handguns on the property.
The lesson to be learned from all this is that even if a noncompliant “30.06 sign” is posted at a business or on private property, a license holder choosing to carry their concealed handgun on the premises may still run the risk of being arrested and charged with criminal trespass, and then processed into the criminal justice system. Also, it is important to remember that even if a sign is not 30.06 compliant, that at any time a license holder can be given verbal notice in words as simple as “concealed handguns are not allowed here,” thus making the concealed handgun carrying license holder a trespasser if he fails to leave.
Practically speaking, as a License to Carry holder, it is wise to keep one’s eyes and ears open for any 30.06 notice that might be given on private property; and when a “30.06 sign” is seen, it may be best to refrain from carrying a concealed handgun on the premises, even if the sign does not appear to comply with the exact letter of the law.
A 30.06 sign only restricts concealed carrying in that premises and 30.07 sign only restricts the open carrying in that premises. Both signs are required to restrict all carrying in that premises.