In response to concerns about COVID-19, federal, state, and local authorities have implemented safety measures, such as wearing face coverings, to reduce the spread of the virus. As a result, we have received a lot of questions from Texans asking if any of their carry rights change because their face is covered. If the person is not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from possessing or carrying firearms or ammunition, “mask requirements” here in Texas should have little effect on an individual’s carry rights.
LONG GUNS (RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS)
Those who are not prohibited from possessing a rifle or shotgun may generally carry them so long as they are not carried in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm. See Tex. Penal Code Sec. 42.01(a)(8). Whether wearing face coverings increases the public perception of alarm depends on each particular set of circumstances and will be determined on a case-by-case basis, so use caution.
HANDGUNS (PISTOLS AND REVOLVERS)
Texas LTC or Other Recognized Permit or License
Whether it be under the authority of a Texas License to Carry a Handgun (“LTC”) or other recognized license or permit, wearing a mask does not directly impact your right to carry. We have seen many erroneously claim online that you cannot carry a handgun while wearing a mask here in Texas; that is simply not true. License and permit holders may still carry in the manner they were lawfully allowed to in Texas before the pandemic.
Without an LTC
The same is true without a Texas LTC or other recognized license or permit. You may still carry as if you were unlicensed (e.g., on your premises, concealed in your motor vehicle, etc.). Wearing a face covering in your car while carrying a concealed handgun, for example, is not prohibited conduct. This does not mean you could not be arrested for other types of unlawful possession or carrying (e.g., carrying a concealed handgun in your vehicle and driving while intoxicated). Criminal acts and all the laws prohibiting possession and carrying still apply.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Due to social distancing measures, limited capacity, and increased security measures, we see more businesses with employees stationed at entrances. With this increased monitoring comes heightened scrutiny—especially when it comes to gun owners. This is a reminder; if an employee, manager, or some other person with apparent authority tells you that you cannot enter the building with your handgun, even if there are no effective Tex. Penal Code Sec. 30.06 or 30.07 signs posted, you must depart immediately. Failing to leave right away could constitute a criminal trespass punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. See Tex. Penal Code Sections 30.06(d); 30.07(d). If you are asked to leave a business for not wearing a mask and you refuse to depart, this is also a form of trespassing. This criminal trespass is punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. See Tex. Penal Code Section 30.05.
Author: Richard D. Hayes, II
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website does not contain legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Every case is different, and this material is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of, a licensed attorney.