If you own a gun in Texas, as many people do, it is essential that you know how to do so in a legal way. Many people are not aware of the laws at play and therefore end up with criminal charges that jeopardize their career, livelihood, and reputation. In this article, we will discuss, in general, the circumstances under which most people may or may not possess a firearm. Some people are restricted from possessing firearms due to their criminal history, such as felons or people with domestic violence criminal history. We will discuss the impact of criminal history on one’s ability to possess a firearm in another article.
We will begin by looking at Texas Penal Code Section 46.02, Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon. Under subsection a and a-1, the offense is a Class A Misdemeanor which carries a range of punishment of up to a year in county jail and an optional fine of up to $4,000. It is helpful to break up this statute. This section states the following under subsection a:
- A person commits an offense if the person:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun or club; and
- is not:
- on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control; or
- inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control.
In other words, you violate section 46.02 if you intentionally, knowingly or recklessly have a gun in another person’s property or in another person’s car or boat. Also, if you are on your way to another person’s car or boat and you have a gun, then you violate 46.02(a).
You may ask if it is legal to have a gun if you are in your car or boat. Subsection (a-1) states:
- A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control at any time in which:
- the handgun is in plain view, unless the person is licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and the handgun is carried in a shoulder or belt holster; or
- the person is:
- engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic or boating;
- prohibited by law from possessing a firearm; or
- a member of a criminal street gang, as defined by Section 71.01.
The answer is yes, it is legal for you to possess a firearm in your own car or boat, but you must conceal the firearm unless you have a license to carry a firearm. If you do have a license to carry a firearm, then you must carry the firearm in a shoulder or belt holster. Also, you can have a firearm in your own car or boat if you do not violate any other laws other than a Class C traffic or boating violation. That means if you have a gun in your car, and you have concealed the gun, you can still be charged with Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon (UCW) if you break another law while driving. For example, a person who has a concealed gun in their vehicle who is arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, may also face a UCW charge. Remember that if you have a gun in your car, you must conceal it if you do not have a license to carry, and you may face a UCW charge if you commit a Class B offense or greater at the same time.
There are certainly a vast array of circumstances that impact the legality of possessing a firearm. In future articles we will discuss how gun crimes laws are applied to fact-specific scenarios. But in general, it is legal for a citizen to possess a firearm in his/her own home or while directly in route to his/her own boat. Also, a person can have a gun in his/her own car, but must conceal it unless they have a license to carry (then they must use a holster) and they are not committing any crimes other than a Class C traffic or boating violation.
Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon is a charge that can damage many aspects of a person’s life. Remember that prosecutors take weapons charges seriously, including misdemeanor offenses. Taking a proactive, aggressive approach to your case can dramatically improve the outcome so that you can get back to life as usual. If you or someone you know if charged with Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon, contact The Hardy Law Group immediately to schedule a consultation.