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 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.
• 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
Firearms-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
Illegal possession of a firearm: It is illegal to carry a handgun (even if the handgun is in a shoulder or belt holster) in the following places/circumstances:
o Portions of public or private college premises where concealed carry is prohibited by the college
o Alcoholic Beverage Code licensed premises
o 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.)
o Correctional facility
o Hospital or nursing facility (when prohibited by posted notice)
o Amusement park (when prohibited by posted notice)
o Place of worship (when prohibited by posted notice)
o Meeting of governmental entity subject to Open Meetings Act (when prohibited by posted notice)
o 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.
Places 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.
• 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.
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.