Texas is a gun-friendly state, but that does not mean that you can do whatever you desire with a weapon and not face a crime. Texas gun laws are serious, and the penalties for violating those laws can be severe. Before you decide to own, possess, or carry a firearm in Texas, you need to understand Texas gun laws and gun crimes

Is Texas an Open Carry State for Guns?

Texas gun laws permit individuals to openly carry rifles, shotguns, and other long guns. However, you must be in control of the firearm at all times. You cannot carry a long gun into a government meeting, sporting event, church, amusement park, or while you are driving. 

Handguns may also be carried openly in most public places without a permit. However, if you want to carry a concealed handgun, you must have a Concealed Handgun License (CHL). You must be at least 21 years of age and meet all other requirements to be eligible for a CHL.

You can be denied a CHL if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You have pending criminal charges filed against you
  • You have a drug, substance, alcohol, or chemical dependency
  • You are under a restraining order or protective order
  • You owe government fees, taxes, or child support obligations 
  • You have been diagnosed with certain psychological disorders

Additionally, there are groups of people who cannot legally possess a firearm in Texas. 

They include individuals convicted of a felony within five years of their release from incarceration. It also includes individuals found guilty of domestic assault and possesses a firearm within five years of being released from incarceration or community supervision. Also, state employees with an active restraining order against them.

Anyone who wants to possess or own a firearm may want to take a firearms course to learn more about Texas’s gun laws. They can also discuss specific gun laws with a criminal defense lawyer.

Common Gun Crimes in Texas

There are many different weapons charges that you can face in Texas. Come of the common gun crimes committed in Texas include:

Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon

You cannot recklessly, intentionally, or knowingly carry a weapon in certain situations. It is a crime to carry a gun if you engage in criminal activity, are banned from possessing a firearm, or belong to a street gang. You can also be charged with this crime for having a handgun in plain view on your person or in your vehicle.

Unlawful Possession of a Firearm

This gun crime applies when someone who is barred from having a handgun is found with a handgun. As stated above, it includes individuals with felonies within five years of their release from jail or prison, state employees with restraining orders against them, and individuals convicted of domestic assault who have not been out of jail or community supervision for at least five years.

Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm

Also known as the reckless discharge of a firearm, it is illegal to knowingly discharge a firearm over occupied premises, paved public roads, streets, or highways. It is also illegal to discharge a firearm outdoors on a property used primarily as a dwelling or zoned exclusively for residential use.

Other Crimes Involving Firearms

Many other crimes involve firearms. In addition to the above, individuals can be charged with gun crimes such as:

  • Possession of unregistered or stolen weapons
  • Conceal and carry license violations
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Trafficking in illegal firearms
  • Unlawful brandishing of a firearm
  • Possession of a firearm by a felon

The potential sentences for breaking gun laws in Texas are severe. You can face substantial fines, significant jail/prison sentences, and loss of civil rights for felony convictions. Even misdemeanor firearm convictions can result in thousands of dollars in fines and a year in prison.

What Should I Do if I Am Charged With a Gun Crime?

Do not plead guilty without talking with a weapons defense lawyer. It is also in your best interest to invoke your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. 

You could be risking more than just a fine or a few months in jail. Depending on the weapons charge, you could lose your right to own or possess firearms. In a pro-gun rights state, losing your right to own a firearm can be more devastating than the fine you might have to pay. 

There could be one or more defenses to the firearms charges that could result in the charges being reduced or dismissed. Make sure to explore all your legal options before deciding how to handle a weapons charge.