Texas has seen a huge surge in first-time gun purchases since the protests involving George Floyd began in March. If you are a new gun owner in Texas, or even if you have been a gun owner for a while, it is important to stay on top of Texas gun law changes. Texas recently passed several changes to his gun laws, including adding some items to the list of prohibited, illegal weapons. Possessing an item that is considered an illegal weapon under Texas law is a crime in Texas. Prosecutors must prove that the item in your possession is defined as an illegal weapon under Texas gun law or federal law.
What Constitutes an Illegal Weapon in Texas?
The state of Texas lists many different items that are considered illegal weapons. To be clear, possessing one of these weapons is enough for you to face criminal charges in Texas. The list below includes products ranging from guns to bombs and rockets. Specifically, the Texas Penal Code prohibits possession of the following types of weapons:
- Firearm silencers
- Knives with a blade over 5.5 inches
- Machine guns
- Rifles with barrel length less than 16 inches
- Shotguns with a barrel length less than 18 inches
- Any rifle or shotgun that has been altered with an overall length of fewer than 26 inches
- Armor-piercing ammunition
- Hoax bombs
- Chemical dispensing devices other than a small chemical dispense sold for personal protection
- Zip guns
- Caltrops, spike strips, or other tire deflation devices
You are allowed to possess handguns and firearms as long as they meet the requirements found in other Texas laws. You will also need to have the correct permits to possess these items. Texas law defines a firearm as “any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use.” Handguns are firearms a person can shoot with only one hand. In September of 2019, a new law became effective in Texas, adding hard plastic kiddie keychains, clubs, and brass knuckles to the list of illegal weapons in Texas. These fall under the category of weapons designed, made, or adapted for the use of striking someone.
Nine Additional New Texas Gun Laws
The legislature also passed nine new gun laws, which we will discuss below.
- HB 121 – This law allows those with a License to Carry (LTC) who unknowingly enter establishments that prohibit guns with signage a legal defense. Suppose you enter a building with your gun, and you have a proper License to Carry. An employee tells you that you are not allowed to bring your gun in the store, pointing to a sign outside that says no guns allowed in the building. This law allows you to avoid criminal charges when you can prove that you promptly left the store after being asked to leave.
- HB 302 – This law prohibits residential lease agreements, such as condos and apartment buildings that provide leased units, from restricting residents or guests from possessing firearms. In other words, if you sign a lease to live in a unit, your landlord cannot make you agree to not possess any weapons while you live there. Individuals leasing a home or apartment have a right to carry, store, and possess firearms and ammunition. This prohibition also extends to commercial property that a business is leasing.
- HB 1143 – This addition allows public school employees to store their handgun, firearm, or ammunition in their vehicle within the school’s parking lot. Texas school districts cannot prevent teachers from storing their weapons in their car As long as they have a proper License to Carry.
- HB 1177 – This law prevents law enforcement officers from charging people with the crime of possessing a handgun without a License to Carry when they are evacuating a local disaster area or a declared State emergency, or when they are returning to the area after the threat is gone. This law also requires shelters to allow people to bring their firearms and safely store them in the shelter.
- HB 1387 – This law allows schools to have more armed school marshalls on their property, and allows charter schools and private schools to hire armed school marshalls.
- HB 1791 – This addition updates the Texas government code related to carrying firearms on property owned or leased by the government.
- HB 2363 – This addition allows certain qualified foster homes to store their firearms and ammunition in the same location. If you are a foster parent, it is important to understand this law because you could face legal consequences if you do not store your firearms and ammunition properly.
- SB 535 – This addition came about after the case in which a private churchgoer shot and killed a mass shooter at his church. The amendment allows people to carry handguns on the premises of places of religious worship. It makes the religious locations the same as private property when a licensed firearm owner may carry their weapon onto the property.
- SB 741 – This restriction prohibits homeowners associations from restricting or prohibiting The possession, transportation, storage of ammunition of firearms. It also restricts them from prohibiting the lawful discharge of a firearm on their property.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
Many of these additions offer more protection to Texas gun owners. There are still many ways you can face criminal charges related to your firearms however. If you are facing gun-related charges in Texas, related to unlawful carry, unlawful locations to carry a gun, disorderly conduct involving a firearm, or trespassing where guns are not welcome, you need an experienced lawyer. Contact the law offices of Law Offices of Steven Jumes today to schedule an initial consultation.