Texans can now carry a handgun in public without a permit, and the background check and training the state previously required. Called “constitutional carry,” the recently enacted legislation marks a major change in Texans’ right to carry handguns.
What Does the Law Permit
Effective on September 1, 2021, the law brings Texas into the group of states, including Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Tennessee, which have recently loosened or removed requirements for carrying a handgun.
The law allows anyone 21 years or older to carry a handgun, so long as they do not have a conviction for certain violent crimes or are otherwise barred by law. However, since the law does not require background checks, it is unclear how the exception will be enforced. Previously, to obtain a license to carry a handgun, Texas residents had to be fingerprinted, complete four to six hours of training, pass a written exam, and pass a shooting skill test. The new law requires none of these.
Reactions to the New Law
While gun-rights activists are pleased with the new law, some law enforcement officials fear that the widespread and easy availability of handguns may increase violence in the state. As recently as the opening of the 2021 legislative session in January – the first since mass shootings in two Texas cities – many expected to pass significant gun control legislation. Instead, the legislature acted to remove the existing restrictions on gun ownership,
Other Recent Texas Gun Laws
The constitutional carry statute was only one of several pro-gun laws passed in the recent legislative session. One measure bars government contracts with those who discriminate against the firearms industry. Another recent law removes firearms suppressors (silencers) from the state’s list of forbidden weapons. Finally, a pending House bill would prohibit state and local governments in Texas from enforcing new federal gun regulations.
Effect on Existing Bars
Section 2 of the new statute states that persons prohibited from possessing firearms under existing state and federal law will not gain the right to possess or carry a firearm under the new law.
It remains illegal in Texas to carry a weapon under some circumstances:
- While engaged in criminal activity
- While prohibited by law from possessing a firearm
- When convicted of family violence
Given the lack of background checks to carry, enforcement of these prohibitions does not seem likely to be easy or frequent.
Weapons of certain types continue to be prohibited in certain locations, even for licensed carriers. These include:
- The premises of any school or educational institution or its transport vehicles
- At a polling place on election day
- The premises of a court or court office, unless under court authorization
- The premises of a racetrack
- In the secured areas of an airport
- Within 1000 feet of the place where an execution is due to take place
- The premises of a business licensed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission which derives 51% or more of its business from the on-site sale of alcohol
- At a high school, college, or professional sporting event, unless to be used in the event
- The premises of a correctional facility or civil commitment facility
- The premises of a state-licensed hospital, nursing home, or mental hospital
- In certain large commercial amusement parks
- The premises of a house of worship so long as the church has not posted signs prohibited carrying
So, while anyone can carry, there are still places where they cannot carry.
Licensed Carry Still Exists in Texas
While it is no longer necessary to have a license to carry a handgun in Texas, it may be worthwhile to obtain a license in Texas to carry a weapon legally in another state. For this reason, Texas continues to offer licensing for handgun carry. The licensure also eliminates the need for a background check to purchase a gun (still required) and is beneficial to employers who may wish their employees who need to carry to be licensed.