The right to bear arms is part of the United States Constitution, but as you probably know, a number of state and federal laws impact gun ownership in the state of Texas. This will be a general overview and introduction to firearms and firearm ownership laws in Texas, but if you have further concerns or questions, or if you are charged with violating a state or federal gun statute in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, speak at once with an experienced Plano criminal defense attorney.
Individuals in Texas may legally own shotguns, rifles, and other “long” guns if they are age 18 or above, and individuals in Texas may own handguns legally if they are age 21 or above, so long as those individuals have valid identification and no felony convictions.
Under Texas law, even a convicted felon may possess a firearm in his or her own residence if five or more years have passed since the offender’s release from prison or parole. The Texas law, however, is not the only law that applies to a convicted felon possessing a firearm in Texas.
Contrary to Texas law, a federal statute prohibits anyone ever convicted of any felony from ever again possessing a firearm either inside or outside of his or her home. Therefore, even if a convicted felon cannot be charged with possessing a firearm under Texas law, he or she might be charged under the federal law. If convicted under the federal law, the penalty can be as much as ten years in federal prison. Under the Texas Penal Code, the unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is a third-degree felony punishable upon conviction by two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,001.
Other firearms-related crimes in Texas include:
– Unlawful carrying of a firearm: When a person without a license to carry (LTC) carries a handgun illegally, unlawful carrying is the charge.
– Unlawful discharge of a firearm: When a person discharges a firearm in a public place or on or across a public street, unlawful discharge is the charge.
WHO CAN OBTAIN A LICENSE TO CARRY?
No law in Texas prevents a legal firearm owner from carrying a firearm that is not a handgun. However, if the firearm being carried is displayed in a manner “calculated to cause alarm,” the person carrying can be charged with disorderly conduct. Open carry of a handgun was illegal in our state prior to 2015, when Texas lawmakers approved a law that allows concealed handgun permit holders to carry openly. The law went into effect in 2016, and a license to carry (LTC) is now required to carry a handgun, whether openly or concealed, in our state.
LTC applicants must be at least 21 years of age or on active military duty and must meet all federal and state requirements for the purchase of a handgun. Factors that can make an individual ineligible for a license to carry in Texas include felony convictions, Class A and B misdemeanor convictions, some pending criminal charges, alcohol or chemical dependency issues, some psychological conditions, pending restraining orders, and defaults on taxes, student loans, child support, or other debts owed to the state or federal government. License to carry permits in Texas are valid for five years.
First-time LTC applicants in this state must be fingerprinted, receive four to six hours of classroom instruction, pass a written examination, and pass a proficiency demonstration. However, even with a license to carry in Texas, it is illegal to enter any of these locations with a firearm: a school or educational institution, a court, a polling place, a racetrack, or an airport, and you may not carry a firearm within one thousand feet of a place of legal execution in Texas.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER RESTRICTIONS ON CONCEALED CARRY IN TEXAS?
It is also illegal in Texas to carry a firearm, either openly or concealed, in a federal building, including post offices and federal courts, and the possession of a state-issued license to carry is no defense. However, if you possess a state-issued LTC, you may carry a concealed weapon while you are in a federal park or a federal wildlife preserve that is contained wholly or partially in the state of Texas. Texas LTC holders may not carry a weapon in any place or at any time while they are intoxicated due to the use of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance or drug.
Texas property owners may exclude open and/or concealed weapons from their properties with a properly worded sign or with an adequate verbal warning. If you carry a weapon either openly or concealed on a property with a posted sign which tells you that weapons are forbidden on that property, you are committing a Class C misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with a fine of up to $200.
It is illegal to carry any weapon openly or concealed in any jail or prison building or on the premises of any business that makes 51 percent or more of its income from the sale of alcoholic drinks for consumption on the premises.
WHAT IS THE CASTLE DOCTRINE?
In 2007, Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 378, which makes Texas both a “castle doctrine” state and a “stand your ground” state. Thus, residents who lawfully occupy a dwelling may use deadly force against someone who “unlawfully, and with force, enters or attempts to enter” the dwelling and attempts to remove by force another person or to commit an aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery. Senate Bill 378’s “stand your ground” clause provides that a person who has a legal right to be wherever he or she is has no “duty to retreat” before acting in self-defense with a weapon.
The 2007 Texas Legislature also approved, and Governor Perry signed, House Bill 1815, which allows any Texas resident to carry a handgun in that resident’s vehicle with or without a license to carry. However, lawful carry in a vehicle requires that the weapon must not be in plain sight, that the carrier is not involved in criminal activity (apart from Class C traffic misdemeanors), that the carrier is not barred by state or federal law from possessing a firearm, and that the carrier is not a criminal gang member.
Frankly, what has been discussed here regarding firearms only touches the surface of this state’s extensive and complicated gun laws and regulations. If you are arrested and charged with violating any firearms law in the state of Texas, you will need the sound legal advice that an experienced Plano criminal defense attorney can offer. A conviction for a Texas firearms violation could have serious implications including jail or prison, probation, a stiff fine, and restrictions on your right to own and/or carry a firearm in Texas in the future.