The following is a video transcript.
The holidays are right around the corner, and family members from all over the country are coming to visit you. You look forward to seeing everyone, and you start to think about taking your cousins to the range.
Suddenly, you remember Cousin Chris and his scrape with the law a few years ago. The details are hazy, but you remember he is a convicted felon. Can you take him to the range? Can he even stay with you? Do you lose your right to carry a firearm when he is around?
There aren’t simple answers to these questions, and state and federal law are not in agreement when it comes to possessing firearms after a felony conviction. Remember, felons aren’t the only ones who lose their Second Amendment rights. Everything discussed in this video also applies to someone who has been convicted of a crime of family violence—even if it was only a misdemeanor—and people who are under active protective orders.
Under federal law, if a person is under indictment or information, has been convicted of a felony or other crime, and a judge could have sentenced them to more than one year of imprisonment, that person may not legally purchase or possess firearms. This is unless the crime was a state misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of two years or less. Under Texas law, however, as a convicted felon, a person would not be allowed to purchase a firearm. However, he or she would be able to possess one in their home for self-defense beginning five years after their release from probation or from confinement.
Mental Health History
What if Cousin Chris isn’t a convicted felon, but instead can be dangerous and unstable at times, and has been committed to several mental hospitals over the past few years? Under federal law, if a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority determines that he, as a result of subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: is a danger to himself or others, or lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs; OR if a criminal court finds that he is insane, incompetent to stand trial, or is found not guilty by reason of insanity or lack of mental responsibility, he is deemed “mentally defective.”
A mentally defective person could also include those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, or committed by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority. This does not include people who have been held in mental institutions for observation or admit themselves voluntarily. If a person is mentally defective, they are prohibited from buying or possessing firearms under federal law. Texas law does not directly address the purchase and possession of firearms by mentally defective persons.
Family and Gun Safety
When it comes to you and your firearms and a house full of family members, you will still want to exercise common sense gun safety. If you want to go to the range with a few family members and you remember Cousin Chris was convicted of a felony, crime of family violence, has a protective order against him, or was involuntarily committed to a mental institution, do not let him come on that trip to the gun range.
But you might ask, “Can Cousin Chris even stay at your house? Do you have to stop carrying your gun around?” What if you’re traveling in the car together? Even if Cousin Chris is disqualified from purchasing and possessing firearms, he can still be around them so long as he’s not in actual possession. Possession is defined as care, custody, control, or management. Keep your firearm in your possession by carrying it on your person, or keep it locked away in a place that he does not have access.
Intoxication and Gun Possession
Now, let’s change the story one more time. What if Cousin Chris does not fit any of those previous categories, but has one too many eggnogs and becomes intoxicated? If he has a Texas License to Carry or other recognized permit from another state, he cannot carry his firearm pursuant to that license while in public.
Also, if he wants to buy a few rounds of ammunition from you, or that .45 he’s always had his eye on, you could be charged with a crime because it is illegal to sell firearms or ammunition to someone who is intoxicated.
If you have any questions about how to properly secure or store your firearms when family comes to town, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.