Smith County constable explains mass gathering permits, how to apply

Published: Jul. 24, 2022 at 8:57 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - In an effort to help the community better understand the law, Smith County Precinct 4 Constable Josh Joplin held a town hall Sunday to talk more about mass gatherings and the rules behind it.

At the meeting, Joplin reviewed Chapter 751 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, defined as mass gatherings, with residents. The Texas Mass Gatherings Act was enacted in 1989 and revised in 2005 and 2015. Mass gatherings are defined as a gathering held outside the city limits of a municipality and, “events that attract or are expected to attract 2500 or more people, you are required to have a permit,” he said. “If there are more than 500 persons expected to attend and 51 percent of those 500 are presumed to be under the age of 21, then you have to have a permit.”

Joplin says in recent weeks he was one of the first on scene after a shooting happened at a trail ride event in his precinct where five people were wounded, including a 13-year-old. That shooting led to Smith County authorities enacting stricter regulations and oversight for mass gatherings.

“We’ve got to have this to where we can have an event and make sure that it’s safe for the community. If getting this permit is what itemizes that to make sure it’s safe, then I don’t see what the problem is. It don’t cost you anything,” Joplin said.

Joplin also went over what horse racing is and when a permit is needed.

“Horse racing is defined as a race between two or more horses in a test or competition for time, distance, or speed,” Joplin said. “Even if you’re just giving away gift cards, it doesn’t matter. If it is a race, period, and it attracts 100 people, you’ve got to have a permit.”

Maurice McDonald is a Chapel Hill resident and has been part of the Jackson Community Riders for 21 years. He says years ago when they started they didn’t need a permit.

“But the society has changed. The generation has changed so me by saying that we didn’t have to have it (permit), now as a 21 year club running we do have to have it and we have always kept a safe trail ride. I’ve never had any incidents,” McDonald said.

Interested parties can apply for a permit online on Smith County’s website or at the County Courthouse Annex and there is no application fee.

“They’re going to look at your entrances and your exits. They’re going to look at the road that you’re having it on to make sure that we can get people in and out of there safely. Make sure we can get an ambulance in there, a fire truck, police. They’re going to make sure you have the security,” Joplin said.

If you apply for a permit and you pass from the Smith County Fire Marshal and the sheriff, the county judge will hold a hearing.

“At the completion of the hearing the county judge shall enter his findings in the record, and shall either grant or deny a permit,” Joplin said. “If you put anything in that application that you can’t back up, the judge can deny your right for a permit.”

The law says the county judge can revoke a permit issued, if the county judge finds that preparations for the mass gathering will not be completed by the time the mass gathering will begin, or if the permit was fraudulently obtained.

To read more on Chapter 751 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, click here.

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