More than 200,000 schoolchildren filtered through the gates of the Houston Zoo last year, and because it's an "educational attraction," zoo officials figured the zoo was within its legal rights under Texas concealed-carry laws to ban guns on the grounds, a statement to KHOU notes. But a gun rights attorney thought otherwise, and city officials agreed, forcing the zoo to take down signs at the venue's entrance that told visitors to forget about bringing their firearms inside. A complaint filed by the attorney pointed out that even though the zoo is privately owned, it's on public city land, meaning the zoo can't keep guns out if patrons have a license for them, the station notes. In fact, Edwin Walker isn't just aiming to keep the signs down, telling KTRK, "I think the city of Houston should apologize to [Concealed Handgun License] holders for violating their rights for the past dozen years."
The station notes that although concealed carry was made lawful in Texas more than 10 years ago, penalties for violating that right weren't spelled out until a recent bill that took effect Sept. 1. Depending how many violations a venue racks up for banning guns, the fine for posting "no guns allowed" signs can be up to $10,000 per day, which some zoo visitors seem to agree with. "If you have the right to carry, you should be able to carry," one tells KHOU. "Everyone should be safe. If you think carrying a gun makes you safe." Others aren't so sure—one visitor tells the station she likely won't be coming back—and still others are plain baffled. "Why would you want to bring a gun to the zoo?" a patron muses. "I mean, that's kind of crazy." Meanwhile, zoo officials are poring over the law to see if there's a way back to the ban, including being classified as an educational institution, which per concealed-carry law would keep guns off the premises, per the Wall Street Journal. (Read more Houston stories.)