FIREARMS

THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states "a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." There has been a great deal of debate and many heated arguments over what the amendment, originally ratified in 1791, should mean in modern times. Regardless of your position within this discussion, the current law enables one to purchase, possess, and use many type of handguns and firearms.

 

Texas enables gun ownership, concealed carry, and open carry, but the state has enacted laws that place limits on the possession, sale, transportation, and use of firearms in order to prevent crime and protect the public. If one violates these limits, they can face a misdemeanor or felony charge that can result in harsh consequences. When facing a gun crime, one should not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney who knows firearms law. A number of potential defenses may be available to a person accused of a firearms crime, and they need an attorney familiar with them.

Your Right to Own Firearms in Texas

In Texas, you have the right to purchase firearms so long as you have a state-issued ID and buy the firearm from a person or business with a federal firearms license permit. If you are buying a gun from another individual, you must be at least 18 years old, not intoxicated, and not intending to commit a crime with the weapon. You do not have to register your firearm or complete a waiting period.

You may also carry your weapon openly or concealed in public if you have the proper permit. Starting January 1, 2016, a Concealed Handgun License became a License to Carry (LTC), covering both concealed and open carry situations. A LTC may be granted if you properly apply, meet all of the eligibility requirements, and are not prohibited from owning a firearm due to some other state or federal law. To obtain an LTC you must:

  • Be older than 21

  • Pass a background check

  • Participate in classroom and range training

  • Have no felony convictions

  • Not be dependent on drugs

  • Be capable of sound judgement

When you legally own a firearm, you may keep it and transport it in your vehicle or boat while it is loaded or unloaded and within reach. However, the law generally prohibits having a firearm in plain view.

TEXAS FIREARM OFFENSES

What are some of the possible firearm offenses in Texas?

While Texas has liberal gun ownership laws, it is still possible for you to violate the law in some way. If you violate gun ownership or carry laws, you can face criminal charges. Some firearm offenses include:

 

  • Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon - This offense occurs when a person without a handgun license carries a weapon on or about their person. It is a defense if the person is on his home or business premises, is carrying the handgun to or from his home or vehicle, or has the weapon concealed in his vehicle.

  • Unlawful Possession by a Felon - There are state and federal laws that specifically prohibit certain individuals from owning firearms. The most common type of unlawful possession is by a convicted felon. If you were convicted of a state or federal felony anywhere in the U.S., you automatically lose your right to own any guns for five years in Texas.

  • Unlawful Transfer - You may be charged with a crime if you sell, rent, give, or loan a handgun to someone else knowing that individual is younger than 18, intends to use it for an unlawful purpose, is intoxicated, has been convicted of a felony within the past five years, or has a protective order against them that requires them to surrender their guns.

  • Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm - This offense occurs when a person discharges a firearm in a public place or on or across a public road.

  • Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon - This offense occurs when a or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of an assault.

  • Murder - This offense occurs when a person, through criminal means, causes the death of another person

Firearm-Related Crimes for Texas Licensed Carriers

  • Ignoring a posted warning sign: If you carry a concealed weapon or carry a handgun in a shoulder or belt holster on property with a posted sign warning you not to do so, you are committing a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine. If, however, you fail to depart upon request, you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. A property owner may exclude an open or concealed weapon carrier with a properly worded sign or oral notice.

  • Improper display of handgun: It is illegal for a person licensed to carry a handgun to intentionally display the handgun in plain view of another person in a public place unless the handgun is in a shoulder or belt holster

Illegal Possession of Firearm

It is illegal to carry a handgun (even if the handgun is in a shoulder or belt holster) in the following places/circumstances:

 

  • Portions of public or private college premises where concealed carry is prohibited by the college

  • Alcoholic Beverage Code licensed premises

  • High school, college or professional sporting events (It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon at a college sporting event only if a Sec.30.06 notice is provided by sign or other means.)

  • Correctional facility

  • Hospital or nursing facility (when prohibited by posted notice)

  • Amusement park (when prohibited by posted notice)

  • Place of worship (when prohibited by posted notice)

  • Meeting of governmental entity subject to Open Meetings Act (when prohibited by posted notice)

  • While intoxicated

 

While licensed open carry is prohibited on all college campuses, concealed carry is permitted on public campuses if the president of the college has established and published rules that allow for it. On private college campuses, concealed carry is only legal if it has been authorized by the college. Consult a firearms attorney - or someone else familiar with carry laws - before you make any assumptions or bring a gun to a location you are unsure about.

 

Place Where Firearms are Prohibited
(For Both LTC and Non-LTC Holders)

 

It is illegal to possess or enter with a firearm, illegal knife, club or prohibited weapon at the following locations:

 

  • School or educational institution: It is illegal to carry on the physical premises of a private or public school, educational institution, location where a school sponsored activity is being conducted or school transportation vehicle (unless pursuant to written regulations or special authorization or the defendant has a handgun license and carries a concealed handgun and no other weapon on the premises of a college/university).

  • Polling place: It is illegal to carry on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress.

  • Government court: It is illegal to carry on the premises of a government court or court office unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization.

  • Racetrack

  • Airport: It is illegal to carry into the secured premises of an airport. However, a peace officer may not arrest a person with a handgun license in concealed possession of a handgun at an airport screening checkpoint unless the defendant is given the option to leave the checkpoint area immediately upon completion of screening and fails to depart.

  • Place of execution: It is illegal to carry within 1000 feet of a place of execution

  • Unlicensed open carry and unlicensed concealed carry are prohibited on all college campuses.

 

Potential Penalties


Your punishment for a firearm offense depends on the level of the misdemeanor or felony you are convicted of. Potential penalties include:

  • First-degree felony- Punishable by between 5 and 99 years or life in prison, and a fine up to $10,000.

  • Second-degree felony- Punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000.

  • Third-degree felony- Punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000.

  • State jail felony- Punishable by between 180 days to 2 years in jail, and a fine up to $10,000.

  • Class A misdemeanor- Punishable by up to 1 year in jail, and a fine up to $4,000.

  • Class B misdemeanor- Punishable by up to 180 days in jail, and a fine up to $2,000.

  • Class C misdemeanor- Punishable by fines reaching $500.

Collateral Consequences of a Firearm Offense


However, the potential, i.e. the collateral, consequences of a firearms-related conviction are much more far-reaching than incarceration and a fine. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony firearms-related offense, you may face:

 

  • Difficulty obtaining a job

  • Difficulty getting into college

  • Difficulty obtaining financial aid

  • Ineligibility for or difficulty obtaining a professional license

  • A reduction in your child custody or visitation

  • A denial of a visa, permanent residency, or citizenship application, or deportation

  • Inability to travel to certain countries, including Canada

  • You may also lose your right to vote for a period of time.


As a convicted felon, you also lose your firearm rights. For five years after the conviction, after being released from parole, or being released from probation, you are not allowed to own or possess any firearm. After the five-year period, you may have a gun in your home only. You cannot take a firearm into public and you will not be eligible for a LTC.

 

Defending Against a Firearm Charge

If you have been charged with a firearms offense, there are several possible defenses that may fit your situation. To protect your rights, and your future, contact The Law Office of JD Slaughter at 512-808-0280 to schedule a free consultation.

FIREARMS FAQ

Gun-Related Offenses in Texas

What are some of the possible firearms offenses in Texas?

 

While Texas has liberal gun ownership laws, it is still possible for you to violate the law in some way. If you violate gun ownership or carry laws, you can face criminal charges. Some firearm offenses include:

  • Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon - This offense occurs when a person without a handgun license carries a weapon on or about their person. It is a defense if the person is on his home or business premises, is carrying the handgun to or from his home or vehicle, or has the weapon concealed in his vehicle.

  • Unlawful Possession by a Felon - There are state and federal laws that specifically prohibit certain individuals from owning firearms. The most common type of unlawful possession is by a convicted felon. If you were convicted of a state or federal felony anywhere in the U.S., you automatically lose your right to own any guns for five years in Texas.

  • Unlawful Transfer - You may be charged with a crime if you sell, rent, give, or loan a handgun to someone else knowing that individual is younger than 18, intends to use it for an unlawful purpose, is intoxicated, has been convicted of a felony within the past five years, or has a protective order against them that requires them to surrender their guns.

  • Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm - This offense occurs when a person discharges a firearm in a public place or on or across a public road.

 

Are there places where carrying firearms is prohibited (for both LTC and non-LTC holders)?


It is illegal to possess or enter with a firearm, illegal knife, club or prohibited weapon at the following locations:

  • School or educational institution: It is illegal to carry on the physical premises of a private or public school, educational institution, location where a school sponsored activity is being conducted or school transportation vehicle (unless pursuant to written regulations or special authorization or the defendant has a handgun license and carries a concealed handgun and no other weapon on the premises of a college/university).

  • Polling place: It is illegal to carry on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress.

  • Government court: It is illegal to carry on the premises of a government court or court office unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization.

  • Racetrack

  • Airport: It is illegal to carry into the secured premises of an airport. However, a peace officer may not arrest a person with a handgun license in concealed possession of a handgun at an airport screening checkpoint unless the defendant is given the option to leave the checkpoint area immediately upon completion of screening and fails to depart.

  • Place of execution: It is illegal to carry within 1000 feet of a place of execution

  • Unlicensed open carry and unlicensed concealed carry are prohibited on all college campuses.

 

Can I carry my pistol on college campuses in Texas?

 

On June 1, 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott signed S.B. 11, also known as the "campus carry" law. S.B. 11 provides that license holders may carry a concealed handgun throughout university campuses, starting Aug. 1, 2016. The law gives public universities some discretion to regulate campus carry. Thus, while licensed open carry is prohibited on all college campuses, concealed carry is permitted on public campuses provided the college has established and published rules that allow for it. On private college campuses, concealed carry is only legal if it has been authorized by the college. Consult a firearms attorney - or someone else familiar with carry laws - before you make any assumptions or bring a gun to a location you are unsure about.

 

Where are guns allowed on campus?

The law allows guns in buildings, classrooms and dorms, but each campus can make its own rules on where weapons are permitted. By law, campuses must map out where guns are banned.

At the University of Texas at Austin, for example, faculty members can declare their offices as gun-free zones. Students residing on campus can have their guns in common areas, including cafeterias and student lounges, but are not permitted to keep their weapons in their rooms because there is no place to store them.

 

Can I have a gun in my car?

 

In Texas, it is legal for you to possess a firearm in your own car provided that the gun is not in plain view, you are not engaged in any type of criminal activity (other than a Class C traffic violation), you are not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm (e.g. convicted felon, convicted of family violence, subject to a protective order, etc.), and you are not a member of a criminal street gang. If you do not meet each of the criteria, then you may be charged with Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon (UCW).

If you have a license to carry a handgun (LTC) issued pursuant to Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, then the firearm must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster. In other words, a LTC does not give you permission to toss your Glock 19 on the dashboard with impunity.

Therefore, although you are permitted to have a concealed pistol in your vehicle, with or without a LTC, you can still be charged with UCW if you break another law while driving. For example, a person who has a concealed gun in their vehicle who is arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, may also face a UCW charge. Remember that if you have a gun in your car, you must conceal it if you do not have a license to carry, and you may face a UCW charge if you commit a Class B offense or greater at the same time.

 

What is a deadly weapon under Texas law?

 

Pursuant to Texas criminal law, there are two ways something may be categorized as a deadly weapon. The first way is "by design" or "per se." Such objects include firearms or "anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury." Texas Penal Code Section 1.07(a)(17)(A). The second way is by the "manner of use." This is a very broad category, and can encompass nearly anything. The question is whether the object "in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury." Texas Penal Code Section 1.07(a)(17)(B). This means that nearly anything can qualify as a deadly weapon, depending simply on how it was used or what the actor wanted to accomplish in how he or she used the object.

 

Does a deadly weapon finding have an effect on my case?

 

One way a deadly weapon finding impacts a case concerns parole eligibility. If a judge or jury finds that an offense involved a deadly weapon, then the defendant is not eligible for parole until he or she serves half of his or her sentence or 30 years, whichever is less, not including good conduct time. And he or she must serve a minimum of 2 years. This means that someone must serve their entire sentence if they are convicted of a deadly weapon offense and sentenced to 2 years in prison.

A deadly weapon finding can also impact an applicable range of punishment. If someone is charged with a state jail felony and the state alleges and proves he or she used or exhibited a deadly weapon, then the range of punishment is enhanced to a third degree felony range of punishment (2-10 years imprisonment and optional fine not to exceed $10,000). Additionally, with a second degree felony or higher, if the defendant receives community supervision and the court finds that a firearm was used or exhibited, then the court may order the defendant to serve 60-120 days in prison as a condition of community supervision.

 

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