Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new law (HB 1927) that allows people to carry handguns without getting a state license. The law goes into effect on September 1, 2021.
HB 1927, the so-called “constitutional carry” law, makes it legal for any individual aged 21 or older to lawfully carry a handgun without getting a state license. The only exception to the new law is when the individual carrying a handgun without a license is prohibited from possessing firearms by state or federal law.
If you have been arrested or charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in Texas, do not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our Belton criminal defense lawyer at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is prepared to help you protect your rights and freedom if you have been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm or any other gun-related offense.
What Does the Constitutional Carry Law Change?
Currently, handguns are the only type of guns that require a state license for carrying. At the same time, state law does not prohibit people from carrying unlicensed rifles and shotguns in public places.
Before the constitutional carry law, owners of handguns were required to obtain a state license to carry a handgun regardless of whether they were carrying it concealed or openly. Current state laws require people who own handguns to be fingerprinted as well as pass training and testing to be allowed to lawfully carry handguns in public places.
However, the new Texas law, which goes into effect on September 1, 2021, allows people to bypass these requirements. Legislators who passed the constitutional carry law argued that similar laws were adopted by more than 20 other states in the country.
The constitutional carry law allows handgun owners to bypass the following requirements to carry handguns in public places:
Obtaining a license for the handgun
Passing up to 6 hours of training
Taking a written exam
Passing the shooting proficiency test
However, despite the changes, Texas law still requires background checks for any individual who wants to purchase a firearm, including a handgun.
Carrying Handguns is Still Prohibited in Some Places
While the constitutional carry law will allow Texans to carry handguns in many public places, gun owners are still banned from carrying firearms in any of the following places unless the gun owner is a law enforcement officer or has been granted permission:
Schools and colleges
Hospital and nursing homes
Residential and commercial properties with a posted sign saying that firearms are not allowed
Government open meetings
Airports security checkpoints
Courtrooms and court offices
National Park buildings
Jails and prisons
Businesses that make over half of their earnings from the sale of alcoholic beverages
If you get arrested for carrying a handgun in any of these places, you might face a Class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony.
Other Provisions of the Constitutional Carry Law (HB 1927)
In addition to allowing Texans to carry concealed and unconcealed handguns in public places without a state license, HB 1927 also includes the following provisions:
Law enforcement officers are allowed to stop, ask questions, and disarm an armed individual at any time if doing so is necessary for public safety. However, the officer must return the handgun to its owner if the individual does not pose a threat to the public and has not committed any criminal offense that would warrant an arrest.
Intoxicated individuals are prohibited from carrying handguns in public places. For these purposes, a public place is any place that is not the individual’s home or vehicle or private property or automobile where the person has been given permission to carry the gun.
Members of a street gang are prohibited from carrying handguns in vehicles or watercraft.
People convicted of unlawful carry of a handgun under Texas Penal Code 46.02 before September 1, 2021, have a right to obtain an expungement.
If you are a handgun owner and do not understand what the new law means for you, consult with a lawyer.
Defenses to an Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Charge in Texas
Many people who are accused of gun-related crimes assume that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution will protect them from criminal charges for unlawful possession of a firearm in Texas.
While your lawyer may help you get the charges dropped if there is proof of violation of your Second Amendment rights, there are other defenses to avoid a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm in Texas, including:
Self-defense. If you possessed a gun when you needed to defend yourself or your family member, your criminal defense lawyer might help you avoid a conviction by arguing that you needed the firearm to defend yourself. However, in order to invoke this defense, you will most likely need witness testimonies to prove that you needed the firearm for self-defense.
Lack of evidence. Another common defense to unlawful possession of a firearm charges in Texas is the lack of evidence in the prosecutor’s case. In Texas, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual possessed a firearm to convict them. If there is no strong evidence to support the prosecutor’s case, your criminal defense lawyer may help get the charge reduced or dismissed.
A violation of constitutional rights. The third common defense to an unlawful possession of a firearm charge is when there is proof that your constitutional rights were violated. In many cases, defendants facing gun-related crime charges may argue that law enforcement officers violated their constitutional rights when conducting unlawful searches and seizures. In other cases, the defendant may argue that the officers violated their Miranda rights.