Surprise: Weapons Charges in a Gun-Friendly State
Texas has long had a reputation as a gun-friendly state. But that does not mean there is an absence of firearms laws. While Texas respects every citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, there are certain limits you need to be aware of in order to avoid possible felony weapons charges.
The Right to Keep Guns in Your Home, Car, and Boat
Texas does not require a license or permit to own a firearm. This includes both long-barreled guns such as shotguns and simpler firearms like handguns. The state does not restrict the purchase of high-capacity ammunition magazines or so-called assault weapons. So if you choose to keep just about any type of gun in your home for protection, you do not need to register that weapon with the state or seek permission to own it. Similarly, you are legally allowed to keep a concealed firearm in your motor vehicle (or watercraft, i.e. your boat) without a permit.
Carrying Guns in Public
Texas recently amended its laws regarding the carrying of firearms, specifically handguns, in public. A handgun owner must have a license in order to carry a weapon in public. In order to obtain a “License to Carry”—formerly known as a Concealed Handgun License—an applicant must pass a criminal background check and, if they have not previously obtained a license, completing a firearm safety class. Beyond that, however, Texas is a “shall issue” state, which means any person meeting the statutory requirements must be issued a License to Carry.
As of January 2016, a License to Carry holder is permitted to carry a handgun “in plain view” while in public, provided it is kept in a shoulder or belt holster. A license holder may also carry a concealed weapon. A license is not necessary if a person is simply transporting a firearm from their house to and from their car or boat.
Exceptions to Open Carry
Even with a License to Carry, there are some places where it is still a crime to carry a handgun or any other weapon. This includes the premises of any business that derives at least 51 percent of its income from the sale of alcohol, a house of religious worship, an airport, a racetrack, an amusement park, a hospital, or a school. Any residential or commercial landowner may also post a legal notice prohibiting the carrying of weapons on their premises.
It is a third-degree felony under the Texas Penal Code to carry a firearm into a place restricted by law. It is a Class C misdemeanor to ignore a private property owner’s notice barring the carrying of weapons. This may be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor if the gun owner was personally given notice and “subsequently failed to depart” the premises.
Are You Facing a Felony Weapons Charge in Houston?
A weapons charge, especially carrying a handgun into a prohibited place like an airport, can have serious repercussions, including jail time and the permanent loss of your right to own a firearm. That is why you need to take such charges seriously with the help of a possession of firearms lawyer. If you need assistance from an experienced Galveston or League City gun crimes lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.