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Texas Gun Control Laws

Gun violence can shatter the norms of any community. Texas has seen its share of mass shootings in the last several years, including the tragic loss of life at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in 2022, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults and injured several others.

State officials often struggle with how to balance the rights of gun owners with concerns over public safety. As a result, state gun laws vary greatly. Texas lawmakers generally focus on gun rights more than gun control. The state didn't create any new gun restrictions after the Uvalde school shooting. Texas state officials instead sought to increase funds to "harden" schools and improve safety protocols.

Texas gun laws remain among the least restrictive in the U.S. While machine guns, sawed-off (short-barreled) shotguns and rifles, armor-piercing bullets, and zip guns are, in most cases, banned by state law, the state does not ban assault weapons. Efforts to raise the minimum age to buy assault rifles to 21 failed in the state legislature.

Texas doesn't have a waiting period for gun purchases. Purchases through a federally licensed gun dealer will lead to a criminal background check that verifies that the buyer can own a gun. But state law does not require a background check in a private sale.

Federal Firearms Law

Although most firearms regulations are at the state level, there are key federal laws that apply nationwide.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issues federal licenses to firearms dealers. It serves as a regulatory agency and an arm of federal law enforcement. Federal law requires the registration of certain dangerous weapons like machine guns. It also bans certain people from having firearms. For example, federal law bans convicted felons, drug abusers, those convicted of domestic violence, and those with active protection orders from owning guns.

Texas Gun Laws

In 2021, the Texas legislature passed a new law approving permitless carry in Texas. Signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the law is also known as constitutional carry. It allows a person who does not have a concealed carry license to carry a gun in public as long as they are not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm.

In other states, including neighboring New Mexico and Colorado, the law requires a person to apply for a license, submit their fingerprints, complete firearms safety training, and pass a background check before the state authorizes them to carry a concealed weapon. In states like Texas, people operate on the honor system. If they engage in the carrying of firearms when it's illegal, they may face prosecution at a later date.

Texas still maintains its handgun licensing program through the Texas Department of Public Safety. One benefit of getting the state's license to carry (or LTC permit) relates to reciprocity agreements with other states. Eligibility requirements are in the table below.

Even with permitless carry, Texans must adhere to laws that ban firearms in certain public places. Some locations where guns are prohibited include:

  • Schools, colleges, and universities
  • Polling places (while voting is taking place)
  • Courts and court offices
  • Racetracks
  • Secure areas of an airport
  • Correctional facilities
  • Certain businesses that serve alcohol
  • Hospitals and nursing facilities
  • Mental hospitals
  • Amusement parks
  • Government meeting rooms

Certain exceptions may apply for active-duty military and law enforcement officers.

Private property owners can also ban firearms on their premises. But they may have to place signage to notify customers or visitors.

The Department of Public Safety hosts a helpful FAQ section you may want to consult.

Overview of Texas Gun Control Laws

Learn more about Texas gun control laws in the table below.

Relevant Texas gun control laws

Penal Code

Title 7 — Offenses Against Property

Chapter 30 — Burglary and Criminal Trespass

Title 10 — Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, and Morals

Chapter 46 — Weapons (Sections 46.01 through 46.15)

Texas Government Code

Title 4 — Executive Branch

Chapter 411 — Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas, License to Carry Handgun (Sections 411.171 through 411.209)

*Note that a federal court ruled that the restriction for handgun possession only to those 21 years of age and older violates the Second Amendment. The state has withdrawn its appeal of this ruling.

Illegal arms

The following firearms and ammunition are generally prohibited in Texas:

  • Explosive weapons
  • Machine guns
  • Short-barrel firearms
  • Armor-piercing ammunition
  • Zip guns

Exceptions apply for antiques and curios, machine guns, and short-barrel firearms properly registered with the ATF under federal law.

Waiting period Texas has no waiting period to purchase a firearm.
Who may not own

Texas prohibits firearm possession under the following circumstances:

  • A person convicted of a felony may not have a firearm before the fifth anniversary of their release from confinement or supervision under community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision. After five years, a person convicted of a felony may only possess a firearm at their living premises.
  • A person convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanor offenses may not have a firearm before the fifth anniversary of the person's release from confinement or supervision.
  • A person with an active protection order (other than a peace officer) cannot have a firearm while the order is active.
  • A person found to be a gang member under Texas law cannot have a firearm in a motor vehicle or watercraft.

There are more legal restrictions for possession of firearms under federal law.

License required? No. Texas does not require a license to own a firearm.
Concealed carry license required? No. Texas does not require that a person first get a license to carry (LTC) permit before carrying a concealed firearm. But, it remains against the law for a prohibited person to possess or carry a firearm.
Open carry allowed?

Texas generally allows the open carry of long guns throughout the state. But the crime of disorderly conduct prohibits displaying any firearm in a public place in a "manner calculated to alarm."

Open carry of handguns is allowed under certain circumstances. If not otherwise prohibited from firearm possession, you may carry a handgun in a public place if it remains concealed or holstered.

There is an exception for college campuses. Under Texas' campus carry laws, a person with a valid LTC permit may carry a concealed firearm onto a college campus. But college boards have the right to pass restrictions on such carrying of firearms. Public institutions may restrict but can't outright ban permit holders from carrying firearms on campus. Private institutions may restrict and even ban permit holders from carrying firearms on campus.

Eligibility for a concealed carry license

In Texas, a person is eligible for a license to carry (LTC) permit if they:

  • Are a legal resident of Texas for the six months preceding the application date or is eligible for a nonresident license
  • Are at least 21 years old (with certain exceptions for those ages 18-20)*
  • Have not been convicted of a felony
  • Are not charged with a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or an equivalent offense, disorderly conduct, or a felony
  • Are not a fugitive from justice for a felony or a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense
  • Are not a chemically dependent person
  • Are not incapable of exercising sound judgment on the proper use and storage of a handgun (which may include evidence of mental illness, incompetency, or insanity)
  • Have not, in the five years preceding the date of application, been convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or equivalent offense or disorderly conduct
  • Are fully qualified under applicable federal and state law to buy a handgun
  • Have not been finally determined delinquent in making a child support payment
  • Have not been finally determined delinquent in the payment of taxes
  • Are not restricted under a court protective order or subject to a restraining order affecting the spousal relationship other than a restraining order solely affecting property interests
  • Have not, in the 10 years preceding the date of application, been adjudicated as having engaged in delinquent conduct violating a penal law of the grade of felony
  • Have not made any material misrepresentation or failed to disclose any material fact in an application submitted pursuant to Section 411.174

*Note that a federal court has ruled that the restriction for handgun possession only to those 21 years of age and older violates the Second Amendment. The state has withdrawn its appeal of this ruling.

Machine gun laws Possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing, or selling a machine gun is illegal in Texas unless the machine gun is registered in compliance with federal law.

Penalties for illegal firearm possession

In Texas, illegal firearm possession can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type of weapon and where the weapon is.

  • Unlawful carrying a handgun without a license is, under most circumstances, a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both.
  • Unlawful carrying a handgun without a license at a place where alcohol is sold is a felony of the third degree, punishable by two to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
  • Possession of an illegal firearm is a felony of the third degree, punishable by two to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction is a felony of the third degree, punishable by two to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
  • Possession of a firearm on a property with a conspicuously posted sign notifying that firearms are prohibited on the premises is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $200. But it can become a Class A misdemeanor when the person refuses to leave. This law has exceptions and defenses that may apply.
Penalties for illegal possession on or near school grounds It is illegal to intentionally or knowingly have a firearm on school grounds, school buses, or property where there is a school activity. Exceptions may apply related to storage and motor vehicle rules for a carrier with a valid handgun license or when the school's written regulations allow a person to have a weapon. Illegal possession on school grounds is a felony of the third degree, punishable by two to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.  
Places where possession of a firearm is prohibited
  • Bars and other places that derive more than 51% of sales from alcohol
  • Schools and school sporting events, unless the firearm gets used in the event
  • Polling places
  • Correctional facilities
  • Civil commitment facilities
  • Licensed hospitals, unless authorized in writing
  • Licensed mental hospitals, unless authorized in writing
  • Amusement parks
  • Racetracks
  • A room where there is an open governmental meeting if notice was provided
  • Secure areas of airports
Red flag law? No. Texas does not have a law that allows a court to remove guns from a person found to be a risk of physical harm to self or others.
Universal background checks? No. Texas law does not require a criminal background check in any firearms transactions.
Stand your ground law? Yes. Texas self-defense law does not require a person to retreat before using appropriate force (even deadly force) to defend themselves against an attack as long as the person is in a place they may legally be, did not provoke the attack, and is not engaged in criminal conduct. See Penal Code Sections 9.31 and 9.32.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

Court Challenges After the Bruen Case

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York state gun licensing law in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v BruenThe Court's 6-3 majority announced a new "historical" test that courts must use when reviewing gun laws that place a burden on the right to bear arms.

In light of Bruen, those convicted of gun crimes and gun rights groups have sued to overturn both state and federal gun laws. There have been conflicting decisions in the federal circuit and state courts as judges have struggled to evaluate current gun laws through the lens of the founding fathers.

In a recent case seeking to invalidate the federal law banning possession of firearms by those with active domestic violence protection orders, the Court upheld the law. Writing for the court majority, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the nation's "tradition of firearm regulation allows the government to disarm individuals who present a credible threat to the physical safety of others."

Research the Law

Need More Information on Texas Gun Control Laws? An Attorney Can Help

If you would like to know more about Texas firearm laws, many attorneys throughout the state with criminal defense experience may be able to help. An attorney can help prepare a defense to criminal charges. They may also help you with efforts to reclaim unlawfully confiscated firearms or to restore an improperly revoked concealed carry license.

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