Firearms Crimes: State and Federal

Gun Laws in Texas and Possible Penalties

Even though Texas has some of the most firearms-friendly laws in the country, there are still some restrictions on certain high-grade weapons like machine guns, explosives, short-barreled firearms, and firearm silencers. What’s more, there are restrictions on who can legally own and operate firearms: those currently in jail or prison, minors who have not received parental or guardian consent, and any convicted felons who are either on parole or have been out of prison for less than five years. Not following gun laws in Texas may put you in a situation where you need a criminal attorney in Houston. Contact our firearms lawyer today for help.

That’s nothing to say of the countless federal firearms charges you could incur no matter which state you’re living in or traveling through. We will cover a few notable federal firearms charges farther down; first, let’s take a look at some of the gun laws in Texas:

  • Concealed Weapons – Texas residents at least 21 years of age (or active U.S. military members or veterans over 18 years of age) with a Texas License to Carry may legally keep a concealed firearm on their person. Non-Texas residents may exercise these same rights as long as they have a LTC from another state that Texas recognizes. Applicants must undergo a four-to-six training course on how to handle, operate, and store firearms, and they must pass a written exam and shooting proficiency test. Remember that there are certain public areas in Texas where you cannot carry a concealed weapon, such as in an airport or on a racetrack.
  • Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime – Texas allows convicted felons to possess firearms in their home under special circumstances. Like we mentioned earlier, the felon has to have been out of prison or off probation or parole for at least five years. Individuals with past domestic violence convictions may also possess firearms in their home, so long as five years have passed since their jail/prison or probation release date.
  • Unlicensed Use of a Firearm – Illegal possession and carrying of a firearm is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. However, this charge jumps to a third-degree felony if the individual is found illegally carrying the firearm on “premises licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.” Minors can get hit with a Class C misdemeanor charge for carrying just a knife that’s longer than 5.5. inches, so know that Texas does not take the unlawful concealment of weapons very lightly.

As we also talked about earlier, there are certain areas where you can and can’t carry your concealed weapon, even if you do have an LTC. In addition to airports and racetracks, these places include: universities or colleges, premises that are licensed to sell alcohol and whose alcoholic products constitute more than 50% of the total products, prisons and jails, churches, amusement parks, certain government proceedings, and places in which you are under the influence of a controlled substance. Furthermore, LTC holders cannot “intentionally display” their weapon in public unless it’s in a holster.

If you have an LTC and are found unlawfully carrying a weapon in a state that does not honor Texas’ LTC rights, you may have your Texas LTC revoked. Your LTC can also be revoked for other criminal charges. If you find yourself dealing with a revoked LTC our Houston criminal attorney can help you navigate these tricky firearm cases.

Federal laws generally dictate the unlawful possession, modification, manufacture, and sale of firearms. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of these laws:

  • Interstate Transportation of Firearms – To transport a firearm across state lines, you must first legally own the firearm and must be taking it to another state where the laws also recognize your legal ownership of the firearm. The trick is knowing which states recognize your Texas firearm license or permit and which don’t. State firearms laws vary widely according to which type you can own, magazine size, and even ammunition size.

Don’t expect the Federal Safe Passage Act to be your safety net, either. Some states are known as ‘anti-2A’ or ‘2A-hostile’ states, meaning they have more stringent gun control laws compared to other states (‘2A’ refers to the Second Amendment, or the right to bear arms).

  • Unlawful Possession – Someone illegally and knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly carrying a firearm is committing a crime. These laws do not apply if the person is in possession and control of the firearm on his or her property or while directly walking to his or her vehicle.

Interestingly, there are no state laws requiring a license in order to possess a rifle, handgun, or shotgun. However, certain individuals may be restricted from buying these types of firearms, such as a person with a past Class A misdemeanor conviction for family violence or someone subject to certain orders under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure or Texas Family Code.

  • Unlawful Modification – Even though firearm customizations and modifications are generally legal in the state, certain customizations or accessories could earn you jail time. Thankfully, Texas law allows you to build your own firearm from scratch, and you can even legally modify the trigger of a purchased firearm.

Hand grips and night sights are okay, too, but watch out for bump stocks. Not only is it illegal to add these to your firearms, but it’s illegal to even own one. If you happen to have a bump stock on you, make sure you dispose of it according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ (ATF) standards immediately. Vertical foregrips are also prohibited, as adding one to your legal firearm will automatically turn it into an AOW, or “any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive.”

  • Unlawful Manufacturing – You don’t need a license to manufacture a firearm for personal use. You will need a license to manufacture firearms for commercial use and purchase, though. There are also a few restrictions on what type of firearms you can manufacture.
  • Unlawful Sale – In Texas, you must be at least 18 years old to buy shotguns, rifles, and ammunition. For those who wish to buy a handgun, the minimum age is 21 years old. Would-be purchasers must also undergo a national criminal background check.

What if you want to sell your firearm to your friend, though? In that case, you won’t need to conduct a background check on your buddy. You will, however, need to make sure that the firearm you’re selling is neither illegal nor defaced. You also cannot sell your firearm to minors, an intoxicated person, a person with an active protection order against them, a convicted felon who was released from prison less than five years ago, or anyone you know who intends to use the firearm for illegal purposes. Violation of these rules will get a Class A misdemeanor or state felony charge if the firearm you’re selling is a handgun.

Unfortunately, the laws surrounding firearms in Texas denote numerous restrictions on owning, carrying, manufacturing, buying, selling, and using one. Our criminal attorney serving Houston residents would be more than happy to handle your firearms-related criminal case; get in touch for a free consultation today.