Citizens at a local gun show in Texas.

In Texas, you can legally carry a shotgun in that rack on the back window of your pickup truck. That is, if you’re not a fugitive from justice, an illegal alien, a person who unlawfully uses controlled substances, a former member of the Armed Forces who was dishonorably discharged, under a restraining order from stalking a former loved one, or a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. If you are, then it’s a federal crime to possess a gun, even a curio or relic.

What are the gun laws in Texas?

The gun laws in Texas are a confusing patchwork of federal, state and local laws, interpreted in contradictory fashion by the courts.   There are thousands of websites and blogs to help you figure it out – not one of which is guaranteed to be accurate.

So here is a short version of the accurate information, as of April 6, 2017.

Texas gun laws are different for long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, than for handguns.

What are the laws in Texas for Carrying Handguns?

For handguns, the applicable law depends upon whether you have a Texas License to Carry a Handgun, or a license issued by another state that is recognized by Texas per the reciprocity statute. If you do have one, then you are considered a Licensee.

Generally, there is a prohibition on carrying handguns (a handgun is any weapon designed or adapted to be fired with one hand.  Folding stock rifles and shotguns and pistol grip shotguns are not handguns, but an AR-15 pistol is a handgun). Licensees are not subject to the general prohibition.

Non-licensees cannot legally carry handguns unless they are on their own property or in their own motor vehicle or watercraft or in route to it. They also cannot carry a handgun in plain view. They can carry a handgun while hunting, fishing and some other sporting activities, as long as the handgun is of a type commonly used in the sport.

A licensee can carry a handgun everywhere, unless there is a prohibition. A licensee is not required to conceal the handgun if it is carried in a belt or shoulder holster.

A licensee can carry a handgun onto a premises that is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, but not into a bar. A licensee cannot carry a handgun if he or she is intoxicated.

No person, even a licensee, can lawfully carry a handgun if that person is engaged in the commission of a crime (other than a Class C traffic or boating violation), is already prohibited under state of federal law from possessing firearms, or is a member of a criminal street gang.

Where are Guns Not Allowed in Texas?

School premises are prohibited areas for the possession of firearms, with some exceptions. A school can allow a licensee to carry a handgun, and can authorize anyone to carry a rifle or shotgun. Most public universities are required to allow licensees to carry a concealed handgun anywhere on campus. Some private universities are also required. There is a lot of fine print in the campus carry laws, so you are well advised to read up on it in detail.

No firearms are allowed in polling place on election day. No firearms are allowed in courts and court offices. No firearms are allowed in horse and dog racing tracks. No firearms are allowed in secured areas of airports, but it is lawful to fly with firearms if they are declared at the ticket counter and the person meets the requirements of the TSA and the airlines.

Other places can prohibit handguns, but only if they post an effective statutory notice. These include any private property, hospitals, nursing homes, amusements parks, churches, synagogues and other places of religious worship.

Federal law has a whole other set of laws. Generally, it is illegal to possess a firearm in a federal facility or on Army Corps of Engineers property.