Texas is home to more than 1.2 million residents who are active holders of concealed handgun permits. Texas has no laws regulating the possession of long guns, other than existing federal restrictions. For the most part, Texas gun laws mainly focus on who can carry, how they can carry and where they can carry—and not who can own which guns.
The state of Texas maintains strong gun culture. In fact, the strong gun-rights state got an “F” from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, primarily due to not requiring universal background checks on all gun purchases (including private sales and gun show purchases).
However, after another round of mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio, calls for gun control are being renewed across the country. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said he’ll discuss gun violence, which he also did after the Santa Fe shooting in 2018. Instead, several laws recently passed (which the National Rifle Association called “highly successful”) would loosen restrictions on guns in Texas.
Here’s what you need to know about Texas gun laws, and the changes going into effect September 1st.
Texas Constitution and Guns
For the most part, Texas gun laws focus on regulating the carrying of guns instead of restricting gun ownership. While the constitution guarantees every Texan the right to “keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State,” the Texas Legislature has the power to “regulate the wearing of arms” to prevent crime.
Which Guns are Legal?
Most guns, including military-style weapons, are legal to own in Texas. However, there are a few exceptions and age requirements. For instance, it’s illegal under federal law for someone under 18 to possess a handgun—except for hunting and situations of self-defense.
In Texas, you must be 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer. However, you can buy a rifle at 18 as long as it isn’t prohibited. Texas’ criminal code and federal law prohibit rifles with a barrel length of less than 16 inches and shotguns with a barrel length of less than 18 inches. However, you can have an exception for such weapons (as well as for machine guns and silencers) if you register them with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—and pay a $200 tax.
Where Can Texans Carry Guns?
Texas requires a license to openly carry handguns in public, but not rifles. Unlike other states that may or may not issue a license to individuals who apply, Texas is a “shall issue” state, which means it will definitely issue a license so long as they meet basic requirements. Applications are online, and require fingerprints and four to six hours of training. In 2017, a law made it cheaper to get concealed handgun permits by reducing the fees from $140 to $40.
Since 2015, when Greg Abbott signed into law “open carry” legislation, licensed handgun owners can openly carry their handguns on a hip or shoulder holster. However, guns are still banned in specific places like schools, polling places, courtrooms and secure airport areas. Texas’ campus carry law, which was also signed into law in 2015, allows handguns in campus buildings and dorms.
September Gun Law Changes
As of September 1st, It will be easier for Texans to carry handguns in churches, schools and apartments. Starting September 1, any handgun owner without a license can carry a gun, openly or concealed, for a full week after a state or federal disaster zone is declared. The change came in response to pro-gun groups’ claims that Texans couldn’t arm themselves when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017.
Additionally, landlords will no longer be able to ban renters from having guns in their units, and Texas will no longer limit the number of school faculty—and staff—that can be designated as armed school marshals.
Also, places of worship will be required to give notice if they want to ban guns. Churches, synagogues and mosques were previously off-limits to gun owners, but Texas lawmakers changed the restrictions as a response to the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting.
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