Gun Rights Attorney
Overview of Gun Rights in Texas
Texans have the constitutional right to bear arms from the 2nd Amendment and Article 1, § 23 of the Texas Constitution that states: “Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.” Unfortunately, the right to bear arms is consistently infringed upon, and the use of a firearm can lead to serious criminal charges or investigations that can impact your freedom.
This article will provide an overview of gun rights specific to Texas with some information regarding federal law. If you have any further questions or concerns, please call a gun rights attorney in Houston, Texas, today.
Who can Own a Gun in Texas?
Both federal and state law control who can legally possess a firearm. Under federal law, individuals are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition.
Texas law makes it unlawful for a person who has been convicted of a felony to possess a firearm before the fifth anniversary of their release from confinement following the conviction of the felony or from the release of community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision, whichever date is later; or anytime following the fifth anniversary of their release from confinement or supervision, if at any location other than the premises at which the person lives. Additionally, it is illegal for a person convicted of a domestic-assault misdemeanor to possess firearms before the fifth anniversary of their release from confinement or community supervision following the conviction of the misdemeanor in Texas.
Texas law makes it illegal to intentionally or knowingly sell, rent, lease, give or offer to do the above to any minor younger than 18 years old. However, there is an exception to this law if the minor’s parent/guardian gives written permission.
Who can Constitutionally Carry in Texas?
On September 1, 2021, constitutional carry took effect in Texas. Constitutional carry allows non-prohibited individuals to concealed carry or open carry (within a holster) handguns in most public spaces without a license. Constitutional carriers must be at least 21 years old, but litigation is ongoing to see that the age minimum is dropped to 18.
What are the Requirements for a License to Carry in Texas?
Texas permits the Department of Public Safety to issue a license to carry a handgun if the applicant meets specified qualifications. Texas law provides that a person is eligible for a license to carry a handgun if the individual is a legal resident of the state for at least six months before the application, at least 21 years of age, not prohibited under federal and state law, not chemically dependent, not currently restrictive by an active protective order, capable of exercising sound judgment (i.e., no disqualifying psychiatric disorders, not having entered a criminal proceeding plea of insanity, etc.), not finally determined to be delinquent in child support payments or state tax, and not having made a material misrepresentation on the LTC application. In addition to these requirements, individuals must demonstrate handgun proficiency to receive their LTC in Texas.
Where can I Carry?
For general information regarding where licensed and unlicensed non-prohibited persons can carry a handgun in Texas, see the chart below. For additional questions or clarification, contact the gun rights attorneys at Walker & Taylor for more information.
|Concealed Handgun||Open Handgun||Concealed Handgun||Open Handgun|
|Private property with owner’s consent||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Motor vehicle or watercraft with owner’s consent||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|A non-prohibited public place without notice||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Liquor, grocery, or convenience store selling alcohol without notice||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Employee parking lots||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Places of religious worship without notice||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Public place with a 30.05 sign likely to come to the attention of intruders||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Public place with 30.06 sign prohibiting concealed carry for LTC holders||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Public place with 30.07 sign prohibiting open carry for LTC holders||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Public place with 30.05, 30.06, and 30.07 signs or provided personal notice||No||No||No||No|
|Prohibited location with a 46.03 sign||No||No||No||No|
|Business receiving 51% or more of its income from serving alcohol for consumption on the premises||No||No||No||No|
|Elementary or secondary school premises (not including parking lots, sidewalks, and walkways outside of buildings), in a school or education institution vehicle, or grounds or building where a school-sponsored activity is taking place, without written authorization||No||No||No||No|
|Within 1,000 feet of a school (outside of school buildings)||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Premises, grounds, or buildings (including collegiate sporting events) of an institution of higher education on which a sponsored activity is taking place, or a passenger transportation vehicle of an institution of higher education where effective 30.06 sign is not posted.||Yes||No||No||No|
|College campus or area, including a driveway, street, sidewalk, or walkway, parking lot, parking garage or other parking area of an institution of higher education, where effective 30.06 sign is not posted||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Professional sporting event||No||No||No||No|
Additionally, a license can be beneficial for carrying in other states. Texas has established handgun license reciprocity agreements with a handful of states.
What potential Crimes should Gun Owners in Texas be aware of?
Individuals can be charged with criminal trespass for ignoring a posted warning sign. This offense is typically a Class C misdemeanor carrying a potential fine of up to $200. However, if you receive personal, oral notice from someone with apparent authority on the premises and still fail to depart, this rises to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Typically, trespass charges will only ensue if the property owner decides to press charges. Texas law states that it is a defense to prosecution under these location restriction laws that a person licensed to carry a handgun carried a handgun on restricted premises or property but promptly departed from the premises or property after personally receiving notice that carrying a firearm was prohibited.
Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon
In Texas, individuals can also be charged with Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries a handgun on or about his person when they are under the age of 21 (litigation pending), age 21 or older, and prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law, convicted in the last five years for assault causing bodily injury, deadly conduct, terroristic threat, or disorderly conduct – displaying or discharging a firearm. Unlawfully carrying is a Class A misdemeanor carrying a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
To be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, an individual must have been released from community supervision, parole, or confinement for a felony offense within the last five years (or be in possession outside the premises at which the person lives) or have been released from community supervision or confinement for a conviction of family violence in the past five years. Members of criminal street gangs also commit unlawful possession if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry a handgun about their person in a motor vehicle or watercraft. Unlawful possession is typically a Class A misdemeanor carrying a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. However, it can rise to a Third-Degree felony carrying a 2 to 10-year prison sentence and up to a $10,000 fine, depending on the circumstances.
Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm
In Texas, individuals can also be charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm for knowingly or recklessly shooting a firearm within the limits of a municipality with a population of 100,000 or more. Unlawful discharge of a firearm is a Class A misdemeanor carrying a potential punishment of up to a year in jail with a maximum fine of $4,000.
Disorderly Conduct Charges
There are also several disorderly conduct charges an individual can be charged with relating to firearms, such as intentionally or knowingly discharging a firearm in a public place, displaying a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm, and discharging a firearm on or across a public road. The disorderly conduct charges are Class C misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $500 or Class B misdemeanors punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
Individuals might also be charged with deadly conduct depending on the seriousness of the conduct. However, disorderly conduct can rise to the level of deadly conduct if an individual recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger or serious bodily injury or if they knowingly discharge a firearm at or in the direction of one or more individuals or a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied. Deadly conduct can be a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine or a Third-Degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 depending on the circumstances.
Other Potential Crimes
Other potential crimes individuals in Texas can face for using a firearm including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful trafficking of firearms, and homicide charges, including murder. However, if you have been charged with these crimes, you might have a lawful justification for your actions that an experienced gun rights attorney can help you utilize in court. For example, Texas has a stand your ground law that states there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force if the person is in a place they have a right to be, is not engaged in criminal activity, and has not provoked his or her assailant.
Do you Need to Report a Stolen Firearm in Texas?
Texas does not require firearm owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm. However, it might be a good idea to report a stolen or lost firearm in Texas depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident, such as the location where the firearm was lost or stolen and who was in possession. It is best practice to consult with a gun rights attorney before reporting a missing or stolen firearm, so they can walk you through the process of reporting this to law enforcement.
When can Children Access a firearm?
Under Texas law, if a child under 17 years of age gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm, a person may be criminally liable if they were negligent, such as by failing to secure the firearm or leaving it in a place where they knew or should have known a child would gain access. An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a fine of $500 unless the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury to himself or another person. It becomes a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
However, it is a defense to this crime if the child had access to the firearm for the purpose of hunting, sporting, or other lawful purposes under the age of 18 if supervised, for the purpose of lawful defense by the child of people or property, by their own criminal trespass, or when the actor was engaged in an agricultural enterprise.
If the negligent person is a member of the child’s family who discharged the firearm, and the child was killed or seriously injured, an arrest cannot be made until seven days after the offense was committed.
How can I Purchase a Gun in Texas?
In Texas, individuals can purchase firearms from an FFL dealer or by private sale. Texas has no laws requiring the retention of sales or background check records by firearm sellers generally or requiring sales of firearms to be reported to a state or local agency and does not require background checks. However, federal law requires FFLs to conduct a NICS background check.
Texas imposes no waiting period between the time of purchase and the actual physical transfer of a firearm, and no law prohibits the number of firearms an individual can purchase or possess. If engaged in a private sale, individual sellers do not need to conduct background checks. However, private sellers are prohibited from knowingly selling, renting, leasing, loaning, or giving a handgun to prohibited persons and minors without written permission from their parent or guardian. Violation of this law is generally a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
What Types of Guns can I Possess in Texas?
Texas has no laws restricting assault weapons, large capacity ammunition magazines, fifty caliber rifles, or “untraceable/undetectable firearms.” However, it is a federal crime to manufacture a weapon that is not detectable by metal detectors.
Finally, Texas prohibits intentionally or knowingly possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing, or selling a National Firearms Act (“NFA”) item such as a machine gun, short-barrel rifle, silencer, armor-piercing ammunition, or an explosive weapon. However, it is an affirmative defense if the NFA items are properly registered under federal law.
How to Protect Gun Rights – Hire a Gun Rights Attorney in Houston, TX Today
Consult with a gun rights attorney if you have any questions or concerns about your right to bear arms in Texas or any other firearms related inquires. The attorneys at Walker & Taylor will provide experienced legal representation to help answer your questions. The firm is passionate about firearms law and has worked with businesses, law enforcement officers, and nonprofit organizations on dozens of complex issues to assist with legal and regulatory matters. Contact the firm for a free case evaluation by calling (281) 668-9957 today!
How old do I have to be to purchase or possess a gun in Texas?
Under federal law, a person must be at least 21 years of age to purchase a handgun from a Federal Firearms Licensee (“FFL”). However, under Texas law, the individual only needs to be 18 years old if purchasing the firearm through a private sale. A Bill of Sale is highly recommended when purchasing a firearm through a private sale. Note that it is a crime for a person to intentionally sell, rent, lease, give, or offer to sell, rent, lease, or give an individual younger than 18 years of age any firearm, club, or location restricted knife. See Tex. Penal Code Section 46.06(a).
Under Texas and federal law, the minimum age to purchase a long gun is 18. A person at least 18 years old may purchase a long gun from either an FFL or a private individual.
I just got a handgun, but I do not have a License to Carry (“LTC”)—where can I take it?”
With the passage of Texas Constitutional Carry, people who are legally eligible to carry may lawfully carry a handgun openly (in a holster) or concealed in non-prohibited places if there is no notice of prohibition that firearms are prohibited.
This means a person—with or without an LTC—who is not prohibited by state or federal law may carry a handgun in a vehicle, a dwelling place, and at non-prohibited places if there is no notice of prohibition that firearms are prohibited. Still have questions? Contact us and set up an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss where you can and cannot carry.
I have a child or a felon in the home—what do I do with my firearms?
Child in the home:
In Texas, a person can be charged with a crime if a child, who is younger than 17 years of age, gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm and the person, with criminal negligence, failed to secure the firearm or left the firearm in a place which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access. See Tex. Penal Code Section 46.13(b). Therefore, the best practice would be to take steps that a reasonable person would take to prevent a child from gaining access to a readily dischargeable firearm, such as teaching the children not to touch weapons, unloading the firearms, and keeping them in a locked container where a child could not gain access to them.
Note: for adopted or foster children, there may be additional rules and regulations for safe firearm storage in the home. If you have questions about your particular circumstances, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.
Felon in the home:
Felons are prohibited from purchasing, receiving, or possessing firearms under federal law. See 18 U.S.C. Section 992(g). Under Texas law, people convicted of a felony may not possess a firearm until the fifth anniversary of the person’s release from confinement, supervision under community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision, whichever date is later. See Tex. Penal Code Section 46.04. However, after that fifth anniversary, the felon may possess a firearm in the home for self-defense purposes only. Therefore, if firearms are in a felon’s home before the fifth anniversary (by way of a spouse or a roommate who legally owns the firearm and happens to live with the felon), the felon must not constructively possess the gun. Meaning, keep the firearm in a locked safe where the felon could not gain entry, and make sure that the felon does not know the combination of the safe.
Who cannot have or receive a firearm in Texas?
There are many people who cannot lawfully possess or purchase firearms in Texas. Generally, the most notable are children, people who have been convicted of a felony, people who have been convicted of an offense involving family violence, people who are currently under indictment or information for a felony charge or certain misdemeanors, people who are addicted to drugs, people who have been adjudicated as “mentally defective,” and people subject to certain protective orders. These prohibitions are a result of both Texas and federal laws.
What ammunition is legal in Texas?
Generally, all ammunition is legal in Texas except for armor-piercing ammunition designed specifically for handguns.
How do I transfer firearms (that are not NFA items) in Texas?
To a Texas Resident:
If you and the other party are both residents of Texas, both able to legally acquire and possess firearms, and the item is legal, you can generally transfer the item without involving or notifying anyone else. Additionally, since there is no gun registry in Texas, there is no requirement to report the transaction. The use of a Bill of Sale or a Bill of Gift is highly recommended, but it is not legally required.
To an Out-of-State Resident:
When transferring a legal item to a resident of another state, you must go through a Federal Firearm Licensed dealer (“FFL”). Make sure to consult attorneys from other states to ensure that there are no additional burdens imposed by the other state and that the item is legal in the other state.
My landlord says I cannot have firearms in my home—is that legal?
Generally, no. Building owners may not prohibit firearms in a renter’s unit in leases entered into after September 1, 2019. However, this only applies to the unit, inside the renter’s vehicle, and the direct and uninterrupted transportation between those areas. For LTC holders, firearms can still be prohibited by 30.06 and 30.07 signs for common areas. See Tex. Penal Code Sections 30.06 and 30.07. For Texas Constitutional carriers, firearms can be prohibited by a 30.05 sign or a similar sign indicating that firearms are prohibited in certain common areas.
What weapons can I carry in Texas?
There are many weapons people can legally carry in Texas. Although the most common weapons are firearms and knives, other lawful weapons include swords, brass knuckles, clubs, and even fist fillers. However, note that when carrying a knife with a blade longer than 5 1/2 inches, there are additional location restrictions (meaning, there are less places you can legally carry the weapon).
Additionally, notable prohibited weapons in Texas are chemical dispensing devices, zip guns, improvised explosive devises, and tire deflation devices. See Texas Penal Code 46.05.
How much land do I need to shoot?
The amount of land required for shooting depends on the item you are using. For instance, shotguns, air rifles, air pistols, BB guns, and bows and arrows only require 10 acres of land, and you must be 150 feet from the residence or occupied building on a neighboring property. Traditional rifles and pistols require 50 acres of land (or more) is required, and you must be at least 300 feet from the nearest residence or occupied building on a neighboring property. For questions about extraterritorial jurisdiction and discharging within city limits, see our blog.
I was denied an LTC—what are my options?
Call our office, and we can walk you through the possibility of an appeal, an expunction, and other possible solutions.
I was denied when trying to purchase a firearm—what are my options?
Call our office, and we can walk you through the possibility of mistakes, the issuance of an National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) Unique Personal Identification Number (“UPIN”), an appeal, and other considerations you need to know.
I just inherited firearms—what do I do?
As long as you are not a prohibited person (or otherwise prohibited from owning, possessing, or receiving firearms) and the estate has been closed (or there is a signed order naming the executor of the will), you will be able to acquire the firearms you inherited in the will. Additionally, if the firearms are located in another state, you generally may bring them back to Texas without going through an FFL, subject to that state’s laws.
Can an officer take my weapon in a traffic stop?
A law enforcement officer can disarm an individual for the length of the traffic stop for the protection of the individual, the officer, or a third party. See Tex. Gov’t Code Sections 411.206 and 411.207. When the traffic stop is concluded, the officer must return the firearm to the individual if the officer determines that the individual is not a threat and is not going to arrest them.
How many guns can I purchase in 1 day / 1 week / 1 month?
Generally, there is no restriction on the number of firearms a person can purchase in a given amount of time. However, if an individual purchases more than one firearm in five business days, then the FFL is required to report the multiple purchase. Although this generally applies to handguns, this can also apply to rifles in Texas.
Can I take a firearm out of the country?
Without going through the proper legal channels and procedures first, never take a firearm or ammunition out of the United States or back into this country. You will likely be charged with international firearm trafficking, and you could even potentially face criminal charges in different countries!
When can I use deadly force in Texas?
Generally, a person will be allowed to use deadly force in Texas when that person reasonably believes that there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death. See Texas Penal Code Sections 9.31, 9.32, and 9.33. Have questions about a particular situation? Call our office and set up an appointment with one of our attorneys.