As a gun owner or a prospective gun owner, it’s important to understand your state level rights, especially with how often they change. Texas, luckily, has a good reputation for upholding the Second Amendment when it comes to possession, ownership, your right to carry, and self defense. So, whether you’re a proud Texas resident or plan to travel to Texas in the near future, make sure you’re up to date on your rights as a responsible gun owner.
Ownership and Possession
In Texas, you must be 18 years or older to own a firearm or purchase a long gun from a licensed dealer, and 21 years or older to purchase a handgun by licensed dealers. No permit or license is needed within Texas to purchase or own a firearm and background checks are not required from private sales. However, you cannot purchase a firearm in Texas if you have a felony offense or are within five years from a felony infraction. Only individuals who are five years past parole, probation, and the felony infraction are able to purchase guns. It is not required to register your gun in the state of Texas.
There are no age restrictions on physically possessing a firearm, as long as minors have parental permission or supervision. However, it’s important to note that adults can be held liable for any behaviors from minors. For example, if a minor possesses a gun and shoots someone with it, a parental guardian or other liable adult can be held responsible if it’s proven that the adult was criminally negligent.
License to Carry
Obtaining a Permit
Formerly referred to as concealed carry, Texas recognizes your License to Carry (LTC). Any eligible person who wants to carry their firearm on their person must take a state-set instruction course taught by a licensed instructor for a minimum of 4 hours and maximum of 6 hours, covering laws, conflict resolution, criminal/civil liability, and handgun safety. After the course, you must pass practical qualification. Once this is done, you can apply for a license or renew your license with the proper documentation. Courses normally cost around $100 and applications for a license or renewal usually have an application fee. Once your application is processed and a background check is run, you will be issued a 5 year permit.
Restrictions and Regulations
You are ineligible to apply for an LTC permit if you have any felony convictions, Class A or B misdemeanors, pending criminal charges, chemical or alcohol dependency, certain psychological diagnoses, protective or restraining orders, or defaults on taxes, student loans, child support, or other governmental fees.
It’s important to note that there are several locations that have regulations and restrictions on carrying or possessing a firearm. Below are a few, of many, common places that are important to know.
Federal buildings: It is illegal to possess a firearm in federal buildings like post offices or Federal courts.
Schools: School regulations can be a grey area, with some allowing for concealed carry and some considering it a felony. To be safe, do not possess a firearm on a school’s premises without checking the regulations of the institution.
Public sporting events: Firearms are not allowed at public sporting events, unless the said sporting event requires the use of the firearm, like a target shooting competition.
Businesses posting a compliant “51% sign”: It is a felony to carry a firearm while on the premises of a business that makes more than 51% of its revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption. These locations will usually post a sign that says 51% so you are aware before coming in.
Correctional facilities: It is a felony, whether licensed or not, to carry inside a building generally termed a “jail” or “prison”.
Election polling places: It is a felony, whether licensed or not, to carry inside a building being used as a polling center for any municipal, state and/or federal elections process on the scheduled voting date or while polling is in progress.
No gun signs: If a location has a no gun sign, you are prohibited from carrying a firearm into that establishment.
Texas has no laws on carrying long guns in motor vehicles and a person does not have to obtain a valid handgun license in order to carry a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle. However, if you do not have an LTC permit, you must keep the gun concealed and out of sight within the vehicle. Only permit-holders can keep a gun in a shoulder or belt holster while in a vehicle.
Exceptions to this rule include transportation vehicles of a school or educational institution, unless pursuant to written regulations or authorization of the institution.
As of January 1, 2016, is it legal for individuals with an LTC to carry openly, as long as the firearm is carried in a hip or shoulder holster. In order to open carry, you must have a license issued by Texas, or a permit or license that Texas honors. You also must have a clean criminal and psychological record. Law enforcement officials may ask if you have a permit or license while open carrying and you must present your license or permit if they do.
There are some establishments that allow for concealed carry but do not permit open carry. For example, you are prohibited from open carrying on the premises of a four year university or a two year college, even though concealed carry is allowed.
To protect its constituents, Texas has both Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground laws. Castle Doctrine laws state that you have no duty to retreat from a place where you have a legal right to be. This means that you are allowed to use deadly and non-deadly force to protect yourself against an intruder or threat if you feel you are in imminent danger in your home. However, Castle Doctrine laws do not protect you outside of the home, where you have a duty to retreat before administering force on a threat. That’s why there are Stand-Your-Ground laws to protect yourself in public spaces.
Stand-Your-Ground laws state that you can use deadly force against threats or perceived threats in public, even in the case where retreating from the location is possible.
Crossing State Boundaries
Whether you’re planning to travel or move to another state, it’s important to know which states honor Texas permits. To view the full reciprocity agreements with other states, you can visit the Texas Department of Public Safety website.
Thirty-six states will honor a Texas LTC including: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
If you are traveling or moving to Texas from another state, Texas will honor handgun licenses from the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, New York City, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
While this guide covers a comprehensive amount of information about Texas gun laws, it’s important to stay informed about other states’ laws as well; you can find a list of gun laws for each state on the NRA’s website or the GunsToCarry website. If you need detailed Texas legal specifications, you can find a complete list of laws at the Texas State Law Library.