Texas Gun Laws: Everything You Need to Know about Firearms Regulations in the Lone Star State

texas gun laws

As a gun owner, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to firearms. Texas gun laws determine important factors like who can legally obtain and carry guns, how they must be safely stored and transported, and what constitutes unlawful use of a weapon.

This guide will overview key regulations in Texas to avoid accidentally breaking the law. We’ll cover background on state laws, recent legislative changes, open carry policies, and penalties for violations.

Rights and Restrictions on Buying, Selling, and Carrying Guns in TX

Federal statutes enforced by the ATF regulate sales and transfers of firearms across the country. States like Texas then implement additional legislation tailored to their specific needs. Municipalities and counties may also pass local ordinances, but these cannot override rights guaranteed in Texas law.

Texas has relatively permissive gun laws compared to many other states. Firearms are an integral part of the culture. However, both state and federal laws still restrict certain aspects of buying, selling, possessing, and using guns in public places.

Over the past few decades, state laws have shifted to enable more public and concealed carrying of handguns by licensed individuals aged 21 and over.

In 2015, Texas enacted laws allowing holders of concealed handgun licenses to carry holstered handguns openly. Then, a new “constitutional carry” law passed in 2021 (HB 1927) now allows permitless concealed or open carry of handguns for Texans age 21 and older who can legally possess firearms.

Who Can Own a Gun in Texas?

The minimum age to purchase or possess a handgun in Texas is 21 years old. For long guns, you must be at least 18. Generally, you must be over the required minimum age and not prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law.

To buy a gun from a licensed dealer, you must pass an FBI background check under the Brady Bill requirements. This check reviews criminal convictions, mental health history, and other factors that might legally prevent the purchase or ownership of a weapon.

Do You Need a License to Carry in Texas?

As of September 1, 2021, Texas law allows adults aged 21 and over who can legally possess a firearm to carry concealed or openly without a license-to-carry permit. This “constitutional carry” or permitless carry option was enacted by Texas House Bill 1927. Eligible individuals can now legally carry handguns in a holster without undergoing training or obtaining a license as was previously required.

There are some limitations around places like schools, polling locations, and correctional facilities. But otherwise, most places that did not ban guns before remain permissible under the new statute. This makes Texas one of the states with the most permissible rules regarding carrying handguns without licenses.

It’s important to understand that businesses or landowners can prohibit open and concealed carry on their premises by providing proper notice. Criminal charges may result from ignoring posted bans.

Where Can You NOT Conceal Carry in Texas?

Texas law prohibits the concealed carry of handguns and other weapons in the following locations:

  • Secured airport areas
  • Courthouses
  • Polling locations on voting days
  • K-12 schools
  • Private businesses with signage banning handguns
  • TABC-permitted establishments making over 51% of revenue from alcohol sales
  • Sporting events where weapons are not part of event participation
  • Civil commitment facilities
  • Amusement parks
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Mental health hospitals
  • Correctional facilities
  • Rooms where open government meetings are occurring

So, while Texas now allows most adults 21+ to carry concealed handguns without licenses in many public areas, concealed carry is still prohibited in the above sensitive locations to provide gun-free zones. Those who want to conceal carry the need to know and follow these statutory exceptions to avoid penalties.

Avoiding Unlawful Use of a Weapon

Texas has laws against unlawful discharge, display, or reckless behavior with firearms. Many violations may incur felony charges and substantial prison time if convicted through the criminal court system. Civil penalties are also possible from personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.

Some examples of unlawful use or conduct include:

  • Brandishing or threatening others with a weapon during arguments.
  • Discharging a gun within city limits or across roads.
  • Handling firearms while intoxicated.
  • Allowing unsupervised minors access to guns.

Conversely, using force in self-defense is legal in Texas when you have an “immediate, reasonable belief” that unlawful deadly harm will occur if you don’t take defensive action.

However, specific conditions justify this use of a protective weapon. Never aim to harm or threaten a person – appropriate self-defense shootings must stop immediate threats.

Proactively taking firearms training classes, carefully securing guns, and always respecting firearm capabilities go a long way toward preventing accidents or misuse. Responsible shooting sports on proper ranges or rural acreage is perfectly acceptable. Just be sure to brush up on local noise ordinances and firing range requirements.

Responsible Gun Ownership in Texas

Simply having the right under the law to buy and carry guns does not absolve owners from exercising prudent care and judgment when possessing or using firearms. Responsible gun ownership requires following state transport, storage, use guidelines, and general common sense safety practices.

Safely Storing Firearms

When not being carried or used, gun owners must securely store their firearms and ammunition to prevent unauthorized access. Texas law recommends locking guns with an approved safety device and keeping ammo separately. If a minor or prohibited person gains unsupervised access and injures themselves or others, gun owners can face criminal charges or liability lawsuits.

Texas gun laws do not specify precise security requirements, but negligence may still result in unsafe storage penalties, depending on the situation. Using gun locks, storing weapons unloaded, separating ammo and firearms, and placing guns in lockboxes are some best practices to follow.

Handling and Transporting Firearms

Legally carrying firearms in Texas requires common sense vigilance and care at all times. Handguns should remain securely holstered when carried openly or concealed.

Know what direction your gun is pointing whenever handled, and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re safely ready to shoot when appropriate.

When transporting guns in a vehicle, store them unloaded and out of plain sight, such as in a lockbox in the trunk. If you don’t have a concealed carry permit, keep ammo separate from any handguns when traveling in a car or other conveyance.

Texas Gun Laws: Protecting Freedom and Public Safety

The law balances our firearm freedoms against public and individual safety responsibilities. Texas gun owners must take care to secure guns from unauthorized use, carry and handle them safely in public, and know when displaying or discharging a weapon becomes unlawful.

  • Stay familiar with state and federal firearm transfers, background checks, and age limitations when acquiring guns.
  • Seek proper licensing for concealed carry while understanding the open and campus carry laws that allow pistols in most public places.
  • Pay attention to off-limit locations and how property owners and businesses may prohibit guns.
  • Attend defensive handgun or hunter safety courses.
  • Learn safe maintenance and shooting range habits.
  • Secure your weapons properly to avoid tragedy.

Together, we can preserve cherished Texas liberties for generations to come through prudent, responsible gun ownership.

This overview does not substitute legal advice from a qualified weapons lawyer. If you face criminal charges around owning, carrying, or using weapons unlawfully, immediately consult with an attorney to protect your rights. Contact Whalen Law Office to start building your defense.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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