To many Americans, the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution borders on the sacred. Among the states, laws in Texas related to gun ownership are some of the least restrictive in the nation.
Still, to avoid running afoul of the law, there are certain legal requirements that all residents of the state must adhere to. It must be emphasized, however, that this article does not constitute legal advice. If you have detailed questions about matters related to gun ownership in Texas, the transfer of weapons from one person to another, possession of a weapon by a minor and more, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney well-versed in the specific details of Texas gun laws.
Owning a Gun in Texas
The requirements to own a gun in Texas are not particularly strict. 18 is the legal age to buy a gun in Texas, as well as to purchase a rifle, and Texas handgun purchasing laws require you to be at least 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed gun dealer. Further, under Federal law it is generally illegal for someone younger than 18 to possess a firearm aside from certain situations like hunting or self-defense against an intruder.
When you purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer in Texas, federal law requires dealers to conduct a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) prior to the sale of the weapon. But if the purchaser already has from the state a license to carry a concealed handgun, dealers don’t have to conduct a background check.
Texas does not require background checks for private sales or for some sales at gun shows. The state also does not limit the number of firearms that can be purchased or prohibit the sale of large capacity ammunition magazines.
Finally, once purchased either from a dealer or a private individual, you are not required to register your gun with the state of Texas.
Individuals prohibited from owning a gun in Texas
Mirroring federal law, Texas law prohibits certain groups from purchasing or possessing firearms. Among others, these include individuals confined to penal institutions and minors who do not have parental permission to own a firearm. Additionally, federal law prohibits a convicted felon from owning a firearm unless they have been pardoned.
Weapons That Are Illegal To Purchase
Under federal law, reiterated in the Texas criminal code, rifles with a barrel shorter than 16 inches and shotguns with a barrel shorter than 18 inches are generally prohibited, along with machine guns and silencers. Exceptions are made, however, if the purchaser registers the weapon with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and pays a $200 tax.
How to Get a Gun License in Texas
Licenses for carrying a handgun in public are administered at the state level by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Texas is what is known as a “shall issue” state, meaning that as long as the applicant meets the basic requirements for purchasing a handgun – being 21, for example – local law enforcement authorities are required to issue a License to Carry a Handgun (LTC). This differs from “may issue” states where authorities have the power to deny the applicant even if they meet all of the state’s requirements.
Applications for a Texas LTC are available online and require an applicant to submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, pass a written exam and pass a shooting proficiency test.
Open Carry and Concealed Carry Laws In Texas
In 2015, Texas enacted a law authorizing handgun owners to carry visible handguns on their person in a shoulder or belt holster, provided they also carry a valid LTC. But this law still bans guns in certain places like schools, polling places, courtrooms and secure airport areas.
Texas law also permits the concealed carrying of handguns on one’s person, provided the person is also carrying a valid LTC.
Also in 2015, in addition to the open carry statute, Governor Abbott signed a law requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to allow licensed gun owners to bring concealed weapons into campus buildings and dorms. This law was challenged by some University of Texas faculty, but their lawsuit was eventually thrown out by a federal district judge and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Finally, the open carrying of long guns – shotguns and rifles – is generally allowed in Texas, but state law prohibits the display of a firearm in a public place in a “manner calculated to alarm.”
Can I Carry A Gun While Fishing in Texas?
Texas does not require a person to have a valid handgun license in order to carry a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft if the vehicle is owned by the person or is under the person’s control. However, Texas generally prohibits intentionally, knowingly or recklessly carrying a handgun in plain view in a motor vehicle or watercraft, except by licensed holders carrying the handgun in a shoulder or belt holster.
Texas has no laws regarding the carrying of long guns in motor vehicles.
Recent changes in Texas Gun laws
In 2019, the Texas legislature passed a series of new gun laws, several of which loosened restrictions on gun owners. Among the new regulations, landlords cannot prohibit tenants or their guests from carrying firearms, and home owners’ associations cannot restrict the lawful ownership, storage or transport of guns and ammunition.
Another of the new measures allows gun owners to carry their concealed weapons without a license for up to 48 hours when leaving an area due to a mandatory evacuation order.
Get Your Legal Gun Ownership Questions Answered
There are, of course, many other questions related to gun ownership in Texas not covered by this article, and Hammerle Finley is a full-service law firm staffed by attorneys familiar in all aspects of Texas gun laws. If you have questions about any gun-related issues, contact us to schedule your initial consultation. We pledge to listen carefully to your questions or concerns, then work with you to plan the best course of action.