CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — The “illegal” posting of gun prohibition signs at the recent MayFest has prompted Marble Falls leaders and chamber of commerce officials to adopt written policy and/or train staff about the state law on behalf of gun license holders, officials say.
A letter from a resident after the event the weekend of May 14 resulted in meetings among city administrators, police officials and event organizers with the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce.
The posted signs in question involved restrictions on those with a license to carry firearms in state law code, referred to as 30.06 and 30.07, the first of which restricts concealed carry while the second prohibits open carry.
On the weekend of the event, chamber officials on the advice from a Lakeway-based private security firm posted the signs at entry gates of the festival hosted at Johnson Park, a city-owned property.
The signs resulted in the complaint from an individual, who stated he should have been allowed to carry his firearm into the festival.
“In direct violation of Tex. Gov’t Code 411.209, the sign purports to ban the possession of handguns by persons licensed to carry a handgun in Texas,” according to the letter from Jamie Ratliff, submitted to city officials on May 19. “If the park was posted illegally, I request that the police chief send a letter to all his officers stating that the signs were not legal to be posted on city property.”
City Manager Mike Hodge followed up with staff and chamber officials.
“With the current state law, the city cannot prevent someone from carrying a firearm into a public park,” he said. “That person just asked the question, ‘Were those signs legally posted?’ The answer is no, they were not.”
At one point, a city officer at the venue concurred with the actions of the chamber and private security firm.
However, the city manager believes staff and chamber workers acted on erroneous advice.
“They were advised by their security firm to do that, but they didn’t consult with the city,” he said. “We’ve had subsequent meetings and got some education going both on the part of our city staff, the chamber and other users.”
City leaders also updated internal policy to include a portion of the statute with applications for use of city-owned facilities.
Exceptions include events that derive more than 51 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales as well as city hall facilities that house a municipal court.
Chamber Executive Director Patti Zinsmeyer said the organization received direction on how to proceed for future events.
“We understand that no matter what, if it’s a public place such as a park or a city-owned place that we’re using for our festivals, we will not be able to display (the restriction) notices,” she said.
Park venues include Lakeside Park, where the drag boat races are held, and Lakeside Pavilion, which hosts a number of private and public events, along with Johnson, Fall Creek and Westside parks.
“What we typically find is that once a state law changes, there’s a learning curve on both sides. Citizens follow the state process,” Hodge said.
“In this instance, it’s notifying the state (attorney general’s) office and asking, ‘Can you review it and tell us whether it is or not?
“In this case, (the complainant) actually came to the city,” he continued. “We knew what it was, but we weren’t aware the sign was posted at the event. Now we’ve corrected that.”
Zinsmeyer said the chamber supports the response from the city as well as as how the gun license holder lodged his complaint.
“The letter that was written was very kind,” she said. “It was a very informative, well-thought out, (a) well-put letter despite it being a complaint.”
She added her organization will take steps to inform their private contractors using public facilities as well.
“We have, from what I understand, posted those signs at the beer booth at events. We will not be posting those signs period,” she said. “When we meet with the new owner (of the private security firm), we’ll make sure they understand the law, and if they have any questions, they can talk to the chief of police.”