It’s September, and Texans Can Now Carry Guns without a Permit
It is a new day, and as reported in the Texas Tribune, most Texans are now allowed to carry guns without a permit – which also means they can do so without going through any safety training – as of September 1, 2021. The police are concerned about how this change is going to affect their ability to safely perform their primary job of keeping the citizens of Texas safe. All of this stems from the current governor’s legislation, which has been dubbed constitutional carry. Let’s take a closer look.
The Governor’s Take on the Matter
To quote Governor Greg Abbott at the bill signing in June: You could say that I signed into law today some laws that protect gun rights, but today, I signed documents that instilled freedom in the Lone Star State. Many in law enforcement, however, take a dimmer view and would like to differ. There is an overriding concern that this removal of restrictions may increase crime rates in the state while putting both residents and police officers at greater risk.
In fact, the executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association relayed that, when it comes down to it, it’s just a sense of disappointment that the bill ultimately was passed. In an effort to appease the police, several amendments were added to the bill, including requiring that the Department of Public Safety offer a free firearm safety training course online. Additionally, a provision that would have prevented officers from questioning a person as a direct result of his or her possession of a handgun was dropped.
The Bill’s History
Texas conservatives have historically pushed for just such a bill, but their efforts did not get them very far in the past. A similar bill in 2019 did not even make it to a committee hearing in the state’s House. Further, after consecutive mass shootings in El Paso and Midland Odessa, many legislators were looking at passing stricter firearm laws in 2021’s regular legislative session. The governor had, after all, spoken out against allowing guns to fall into the hands of those who clearly should not have them, and the Lt. Governor had made a noteworthy comment about being willing to take an arrow from the National Rifle Association (a heavy hitter in the fight against more restrictive gun laws) in his efforts to ensure that stronger background checks are mandated. It seems, however, that things somehow changed course along the way.
Those who advocate for permit-less carry in the state shared that 2021 was their year to get the job done due to an increasing number of states across the country that have similar permit-less carry laws on the books and as a result of the recent overhaul in the state’s House leadership. While the Senate and House each passed separate versions of the constitutional carry bill, they negotiated the final results in May, and it was approved by the House with a vote of 82 to 62. This bill is just one in a long line of pro-gun legislation that made its way to the finish line in Texas this year, including:
A bill that bars the state government from contracting with entities that are perceived to discriminate against the firearm industry overall
A bill that removes firearm suppressors from the state’s prohibited weapons list
A bill that clamps down on the ability of state and local governments from enforcing new federal gun regulations
The director of Texas Gun Rights summed the situation up quite colorfully with the statement he made after the governor signed the permit-less carry bill into law with Texas is finally a pro-gun state despite years of foot-dragging, roadblocks, and excuses from the spineless political class.
The Changes Made
Prior to the bill going into effect on September 1, Texans were generally required to have a license to carry a handgun – whether it was open or concealed carry. In order to obtain such a license, applicants had to do all the following:
Complete four to six hours of safety training
Pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test
This did not apply to rifles, and rifle carry has not been affected by the new bill. As of September 1, anyone who is at least 21 years old – and who is not otherwise legally prohibited from owning a gun (such as anyone with a domestic violence or a felony conviction) – can carry a handgun in public with no need to worry about a pesky permit or training.
Texans Weigh In
The fact is that – according to a poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune in April – the majority of Texas voters are not in favor of allowing permit-less gun carry. While 56 percent of the republican voters in the state support permit-less carry, 59 percent of voters overall oppose it. And Texas law enforcement, as mentioned, is staunchly opposed. In fact, the executive director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association shared that he didn’t understand how the bill helped or what the problem it resolves even is. Additionally, the chair of trustees for the Texas Fraternal Order of Police weighed in with his belief that the bill passed for a variety of reasons that include:
Some crime rates increased last year (some of these increases are believed to be a side effect of the pandemic), which may leave some Texans doubting law enforcement’s ability to protect them.
It may also be related to the defund the police movement, which is focused on diminishing law enforcement budgets and on redirecting the funds to social service programs.
A specific block of voters was exceptionally vocal and active on the subject of permit-less carry, and they got the attention they were looking for.
No matter how you slice it, it is a lot to take in, and the effects that the new constitutional carry bill will have in the State of Texas remain to be seen. The fact that the state is becoming more gun-friendly, however, cannot be denied.
Texas Gun Laws: FAQ
The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding gun laws in Texas and the changes brought on by recent laws can help you better understand the laws and can help you ensure that your gun ownership and carry practices are not outside their scope.
What practical changes happened on September 1, 2021?
Prior to September 1 of this year, everyone who wanted to carry a handgun in Texas had to have a license to do so. After September 1, however, a license is no longer required, and anyone who is at least 21 years old and who has the legal right to own a gun in Texas can carry a handgun in a public place without the need for a permit. If you were prohibited from carrying a handgun in public prior to September 1, 2021, however, the prohibition stands.
Where can you carry a gun in Texas?
In the State of Texas, you can carry a gun wherever they are not prohibited, which allows broad range. Those places where carrying a gun is always prohibited in Texas include:
At schools, on school buses, and anywhere that school activities are happening
Wherever sporting events are being held, including professional, school, and interscholastic sporting events
At those businesses that obtain more than half of their income from the sale of alcohol on the premises, such as bars
At hospitals and nursing homes
At polling places when elections or early voting are taking place
In court buildings or offices
Violations in relation to off-limits gun carry are either Class A misdemeanors or third-degree felonies (depending upon the location involved).
How are guns supposed to be carried?
Prior to September 1, 2021, licensed gun carriers were required to carry their handguns in either a shoulder or belt holster. Now, anyone who isn't legally barred from carrying a gun need only ensure that he or she carries the gun in a holster of some kind – there is no longer a requirement that the gun holder is either a shoulder or belt holster.
What about rifles?
Rifles and other kinds of long guns do not require a carry license (and this was true prior to September 1 as well) – unless the person carrying is prohibited from possessing a gun in Texas in the first place.
What about silencers?
The new bill has raised a lot of questions and concerns about silencers, and these concerns are well-founded. While the bill stipulates the legality of suppressors that are made in Texas and owned in Texas, there is plenty of room for questions and doubt on the matter. According to ABC News on Channel 6, the Texas governor maintains that any firearm suppressor made in Texas and that stays in Texas will not be subject to federal law or federal regulations. While this is a bold statement, it remains to be seen how true it is.
The State of Texas may take this view, but the federal government does not, and while you are not likely to be arrested at the state level for having a silencer that is not registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), you can be arrested by the ATF for doing so, and a conviction carries up to 10 years in federal prison and up to $100,000 in fines. The governor’s statement may lead you to believe you are protected, but you do not want to find out the hard way that you are not.
What are the differences between an LTC and constitutional carry?
It is important to recognize that there is a difference between actually having a license to carry (LTC) and engaging in so-called constitutional carry. Consider the following:
Businesses can choose not to allow unlicensed carry on their premises by providing appropriate notice, and they can do so even if they continue to allow those with licenses to carry. Further, a general no weapons sign prohibits both LTC and constitutional carry.
While an LTC comes with what is known as a savings clause that allows a person who carries a gun into a prohibited area – but who leaves immediately upon being given personal notice to do so – to avoid any legal penalties, constitutional carry does not. If you are invoking your constitutional carry right while in a prohibited space, you can face either a Class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony (depending upon where you are) – whether you are willing to leave immediately or not.
Campus carry applies to those who have LTC but does not apply to those covered by constitutional carry.
In other words, you want to get it right when it comes to gun laws in the state of Texas. And because the jury is still out on how the new constitutional carry law (and related bills) are going to play out, it is a good idea to proceed with caution. There is no reason to be the proverbial canary in a coal mine – paving the way for others who come after you. It is a far better idea to exercise caution until we know more.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Lawyer Today
While Texas takes its constitutional freedoms seriously, it also takes its gun laws seriously, and you do not want to end up on the wrong side of this equation. If you are facing a gun charge, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a savvy criminal lawyer who takes great pride in his impressive track record of skillfully advocating for the legal rights of clients like you. Your case is important, and our well-respected legal team is committed to harnessing their exemplary skill and experience in pursuit of its optimal outcome. To learn more about how we can help you, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.