In my 10 years of experience as a weapons charge defense attorney in Houston, I've represented countless individuals charged with Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon who weren't necessarily doing anything harmful or dangerous or violent with their firearm. Their downfall was not understanding the impact of the new Texas gun laws and how to properly carry their gun under the Firearm Carry Act of 2021. My hope is that those who read this post will become informed about the new Texas gun laws and avoid getting arrested for an Unlawful Possession of a Weapon or Unlawful Carry charge in Texas.
The Firearm Carry Act of 2021 and its Impact on Texas Gun Laws
Governor Greg Abbott emboldened the state of Texas' respect for the 2nd Amendment by signing HB 1927 on June 16, 2021, commonly referred to as Firearm Carry Act of 2021, or the "constitutional carry bill". This changed a lot about Texas Gun Laws and redefined the Texas Penal Code's definition of an "Unlawful Carry of a Weapon" charge. After 2021, Texans no longer needed to apply for a license to carry (LTC) in order to carry their firearms in public. The new laws have replaced the requirement of a license to carry with the simple requirement of keeping the gun in a holster, with certain conditions as described below.
The changes in the law can be confusing, even to an experienced gun charge defense attorney like myself. A good way to make sense of the changes is to look at the Texas Penal Code's definition of "Unlawful Carry of a Weapon" in Section 46.02. You can read the exact and somewhat confusing language of the definition of Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon on the texas.gov website. Instead of reciting the code word for word, I'll do my best to give you the cliff notes.
When is it Illegal to Carry a Handgun on Your Person?
1. When in public and the handgun is not at least partially concealed in a holster. (**this means you don't need a LTC to carry a gun in public. All you need is a holster.) Of course you must keep the gun in the holster.
2. When under 21 years old unless you're on your own premises or being supervised by an adult or are directly en route to your car or boat.
3. If convicted of assault, terroristic threat, deadly conduct, or discharging a firearm in a public place within the last 5 years, unless you're on your own premises or are directly en route to your car or boat.
4. Convicted felons or anyone else prohibited from possessing a firearm.
5. If you are intoxicated.
When is it Illegal to Carry a Handgun in Your Vehicle?
1. If the firearm is in plain view and you don't have a license to carry, UNLESS the handgun is in a holster.
2. If the person is engaged in criminal activity other than a class C Misdemeanor. For example, carrying illegal drugs or running from the cops or driving while intoxicated.
Do I still Need a License to Carry in Texas with the New Texas Gun Laws?
You do not need a license to carry in Texas to carry a firearm in public, as long as it is partially concealed in a holster and you aren't intentionally displaying it to someone. You must be 21 to apply for a license to carry.
However, there are still benefits to having a license to carry in Texas:
1. You can carry the firearm in plain view in your vehicle without a holster.
2. Certain business and university campuses can still require the holding of a license to carry on their premises
3. A license to carry a handgun may be used as a valid form of identification.
4. In states with reciprocity agreements with Texas, license holders can carry their handguns in those states.