Texas’ Firearms Frontier: Understanding the Latest Gun Laws

Texas Constitutional Carry Law (HB 1927)

On June 16, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 1927, also known as the Firearm Carry Act of 2021 or the constitutional carry bill. This law allows legally eligible gun owners aged 21 and older to carry their firearms without a Texas License to Carry (LTC).

Who Can Carry Under HB 1927?

They must be 21 years of age or older. They must also be legally eligible to purchase and possess handguns under both federal and Texas law. They cannot have been convicted within the last five years of certain misdemeanor crimes.

Certain individuals are prohibited from carrying under HB 1927, including persons under 21, felons, fugitives from justice, and unlawful users or addicts of controlled substances. Persons adjudicated as mentally defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution and illegal aliens or those in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa without an exception.

Also, persons dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, Persons who have renounced U.S. citizenship, persons subject to certain restraining orders, and persons convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

Places Where Carrying is Prohibited

Even under the new law, there are places where carrying a firearm is prohibited, including schools, polling places, courts, racetracks, secure areas of airports, bars, professional sporting events, correctional facilities, hospitals, amusement parks, and government meetings.

Interactions with Law Enforcement

HB 1927 specifies that law enforcement officers can disarm a person if they believe it’s necessary for safety. The weapon must be returned unless the firearm is stolen or the person is arrested. The bill does not explicitly state that officers can detain someone solely for carrying a handgun.

Business Restrictions

Businesses can post signs prohibiting the unlicensed carrying of firearms on their property. HB 1927 does not allow carrying in businesses that post such signage.

Other Provisions

Employers can still prohibit firearms at the workplace.

The Department of Family and Protective Services cannot prohibit foster parents from transporting a foster child in a vehicle with a firearm, provided the firearm is in the possession and control of the foster parent and they are legally allowed to possess it.

The Department of Public Safety will offer a free online firearms safety course, though it’s not mandatory.

Carrying a firearm while intoxicated is prohibited unless on one’s own property or with permission on another’s property.

Dutton Amendment

The Dutton Amendment, which was part of the initial discussions around the bill, was removed from the final version. This amendment would have clarified law enforcement’s ability to interact with individuals carrying handguns under the new law. However, since it was removed, there is still some ambiguity around law enforcement’s authority in these situations.

HB 1927 has specific guidelines on how law enforcement officers can interact with individuals carrying handguns under the new constitutional carry law. Officers can temporarily disarm individuals if they believe it is necessary for safety, but they must return the firearm if there is no legal basis for permanent seizure. The law does not explicitly detail the authority to detain someone solely for carrying a handgun, leaving room for legal interpretation and court decisions to provide further clarity.

While the above provides an overview of HB 1927 and its implications, it’s essential to note that the law does not explicitly delve into “safe storage” requirements for firearms. Safe storage typically refers to the secure storage of firearms to prevent unauthorized access, especially by children. Texas does have laws penalizing the provision of firearms to children without parental consent, but specific storage mandates, like requiring gun safes or lockboxes, are not explicitly outlined in HB 1927.

Safe Storage Laws

The Texas Child Access Prevention (CAP) law, codified in Section 46.13 of the Texas Penal Code, is a legal statute that aims to prevent minors from accessing readily dischargeable firearms and holds adults accountable for secure firearm storage. The law is meticulously crafted to promote responsible firearm ownership and ensure the safety of minors by mitigating the risks associated with unauthorized firearm access.

Under the CAP law, a person commits an offense if a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm, and the person with criminal negligence failed to secure the firearm or left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access. The term “child” refers to a person younger than 17 years of age, and a “readily dischargeable firearm” is defined as a firearm that is loaded with ammunition, whether or not a round is in the chamber.

The law categorizes the offense as a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $500. However, the offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor if the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury to themselves or another person. A Class A misdemeanor is a more severe charge, carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail, a fine up to $4,000, or both.

The CAP law also outlines defenses against prosecution. A person can avoid liability if the child’s access to the firearm was supervised by a person older than 18 and was for hunting, sporting, or other lawful purposes. Additionally, a person won’t be prosecuted if the child gained access to the firearm in self-defense or defense of another person against an intruder, or if the firearm was accessed during a lawful pursuit such as defending property, lawful hunting, or during a competitive shooting event organized by a governing body.

Moreover, the law provides exemptions where it does not apply. For instance, it does not apply if the firearm was stored in a locked container or location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure, or if the firearm was carried on the person or within such close proximity that the individual could readily retrieve and use it as if carried on the person.

The Texas CAP law is a comprehensive legal framework that encourages the secure storage of firearms to prevent unauthorized access by minors. It balances the rights of firearm owners with the necessity to protect children from the dangers of unsupervised firearm access, promoting a culture of responsibility and safety in firearm ownership and handling. The law’s detailed provisions, defenses, and exemptions reflect a nuanced approach to preventing firearm-related accidents and tragedies involving minors.

Senate Bill 728

In the ever-evolving landscape of firearm legislation, Texas has recently made strides in enhancing its background check processes to promote public safety and responsible gun ownership. Senate Bill 728 (SB 728) marks a significant development in this realm, aiming to fortify the existing background check system by facilitating more comprehensive information sharing between state and federal law enforcement agencies. This legislation underscores Texas’s commitment to preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who may pose a risk to societal safety, such as convicted felons or those with certain mental health adjudications. By bolstering the robustness of background checks, SB 728 seeks to navigate the delicate balance between upholding Second Amendment rights and implementing prudent measures to mitigate the risks associated with firearm accessibility.

Enhanced Information Sharing

The bill facilitates the sharing of more detailed information with federal law enforcement agencies during background checks. This is designed to ensure that individuals who are prohibited from owning firearms at the federal level are effectively identified and prevented from making purchases.

State and Federal Collaboration

SB 728 emphasizes collaboration between state and federal law enforcement agencies. By providing both entities with pertinent information about potential gun buyers, the bill aims to create a more robust and efficient background check system.

Focus on Young Buyers

Another aspect of the legislation is to make it easier for authorities to flag potential gun buyers who are between the ages of 18 and 20. This age group is of particular concern due to the potential risks associated with younger individuals having access to firearms.

Supporting the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

Texas has an obligation to establish procedures that provide federal “prohibited person information” to the FBI for use with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). SB 728 strengthens this commitment by ensuring that the state’s data sharing with NICS is more comprehensive and effective.

The passage of SB 728 represents a significant step towards enhancing gun safety in Texas. By strengthening the background check process, the state aims to prevent firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who may pose a risk to themselves or others. The bill’s emphasis on collaboration between state and federal agencies underscores the importance of a unified approach to gun control and safety.

Public Response

As with most gun-related legislation, SB 728 has garnered both support and criticism. Proponents argue that the bill is a necessary measure to ensure public safety and prevent potential tragedies. They believe that a more rigorous background check system can effectively deter prohibited individuals from acquiring firearms. On the other hand, critics express concerns about potential overreach and the infringement on Second Amendment rights. They argue that while the intentions behind the bill are commendable, its implementation may have unintended consequences.

Senate Bill 728 is a testament to Texas’s commitment to refining its gun laws in the interest of public safety. While the debate around gun control is complex and multifaceted, the state’s efforts to enhance background checks reflect a proactive approach to addressing some of the challenges associated with firearm ownership and access.

Texas Red Flag Laws

As of now, Texas does not have a state-level red flag law in place. Red flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. However, there have been discussions and considerations regarding the implementation of such laws in Texas.

Despite the absence of a state-level red flag law, there have been legislative efforts and discussions aimed at introducing such provisions. These discussions have been influenced by the broader national conversation on gun violence prevention and the role of red flag laws in enhancing public safety. Red flag laws are seen as a way to temporarily restrict access to firearms for individuals who may be experiencing a crisis or exhibiting behaviors that pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.

In Texas, the debate around red flag laws has been marked by a diversity of opinions, reflecting various perspectives on gun rights, mental health, and public safety. Proponents argue that red flag laws could serve as a proactive measure to prevent gun-related tragedies, including suicides and mass shootings, by allowing for temporary firearm removal in situations where there is a demonstrable risk.

On the other hand, opponents of red flag laws in Texas often express concerns regarding due process, individual rights, and the potential for misuse or misapplication of such laws. They argue for a careful consideration of legal safeguards to protect the rights of gun owners while ensuring that any measures adopted are effective and fair in promoting public safety.

In conclusion, while Texas has not yet implemented a red flag law, the topic remains a pertinent part of the dialogue on gun safety and violence prevention in the state. The ongoing discussions reflect a broader societal examination of strategies to balance individual rights with collective safety in the context of firearm access and ownership.

School Safety House Bill 3

Texas House Bill 3 (HB 3) is a multifaceted legislation aimed at bolstering school safety through a series of comprehensive measures. The bill is structured in various sections, each addressing a different aspect of school safety, ranging from physical security enhancements to mental health support and emergency response planning.

Physical Security Measures

One of the pivotal sections of HB 3 focuses on enhancing the physical security infrastructure within schools. This includes provisions for secure entryways, improved surveillance systems, and other security apparatus that contribute to creating a secure learning environment. The bill emphasizes the need for schools to be fortified against potential threats, ensuring that students and staff are safeguarded against unforeseen security challenges.

Emergency Response Planning

HB 3 underscores the significance of having robust emergency response plans in place. It mandates schools to develop, maintain, and regularly update comprehensive emergency response protocols. These protocols are designed to ensure that schools are adequately prepared to respond to a variety of emergency situations, including natural disasters and active shooter incidents, in a coordinated and effective manner.

Collaboration with Law Enforcement

A key aspect of HB 3 is the promotion of collaboration between schools and local law enforcement agencies. This collaborative approach is aimed at facilitating a unified response during emergencies, ensuring that law enforcement agencies can effectively coordinate with schools during crisis situations. This section of the bill underscores the importance of multi-agency coordination in enhancing overall school safety.

Mental Health Support

Recognizing the intrinsic link between mental health and school safety, HB 3 includes provisions aimed at bolstering mental health support within schools. It encourages the provision of mental health services to students, facilitating early identification and intervention in cases where students may be experiencing mental health challenges. This proactive approach is aimed at mitigating potential risks associated with mental health issues, contributing to a safer school environment.

Training and Professional Development

HB 3 emphasizes the importance of continuous training and professional development for school staff, including teachers, administrators, and security personnel. This focus on professional development is aimed at equipping school staff with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively navigate various safety and security challenges, enhancing their capacity to respond to emergencies and contribute to a secure learning environment.

Community and Stakeholder Engagement

The bill also encourages schools to engage with the broader community, including parents, guardians, and other stakeholders, in the promotion of school safety. This approach fosters a sense of collective responsibility and community involvement in creating and maintaining safe and secure learning environments.

In conclusion, Texas House Bill 3 (HB 3) represents a comprehensive legislative approach aimed at enhancing school safety through a multifaceted strategy that encompasses physical security, emergency response planning, mental health support, and community engagement. Each section of the bill contributes to creating a holistic framework that addresses various aspects of school safety, reflecting a concerted effort to safeguard Texas schools against a multitude of potential risks and challenges.

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Texas Gun Legislation FAQs

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