By Kat Ainsworth Stevens
On June 16, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 1927, the Firearm Carry Act of 2021, (commonly known as the constitutional carry bill) into law. HB 1927 (commonly known as the constitutional carry bill) will allow legally eligible gun owners 21 years and older to carry their firearms without a Texas License to Carry (“LTC”). But before you start carrying your everyday carry (“EDC”) gun openly or concealed without an LTC, there are several things you should know.
When Does Texas Constitutional Carry Begin?
Although it has been officially signed, HB 1927 will not go into effect until September 1, 2021. This might be the most crucial piece of information you need to know. The effective date means an otherwise qualified person who does not have a license or permit (e.g., an LTC) cannot carry in public until that day. Remember, claiming ignorance of the law, such as the date it goes into effect, is not a valid legal defense.
Who Can Carry Under HB 1927?
- You must be 21 years of age or older;
- With some exceptions (see below), you must be able to legally purchase and possess handguns under both federal and Texas law;
- You can’t have been convicted within the last five years of certain misdemeanor crimes or you will be disqualified. Those misdemeanor crimes are: Assault Causing Bodily Injury, Deadly Conduct, Terroristic Threat, Disorderly Conduct – Discharge, or Disorderly Conduct – Display. Under HB 1927, you cannot carry without a license until five years have elapsed from the date of conviction.
- Note: Texas residency is not required.
Who Is Prohibited from Firearms Ownership and Carry?
Some people will be prohibited from carrying under HB 1927, just as there are people who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing under federal law. That includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the following:
- A person under the age of 21;
- Felons (anyone convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year);
- Fugitives from justice;
- A person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
- Anyone adjudicated as a mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution;
- Illegal aliens or those in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa and who do not meet an exception;
- Anyone dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces;
- Those who have renounced their U.S. citizenship;
- A person who is subject to an explicit court order restraining them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and
- A person convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Where Are You Not Allowed to Carry Your Gun?
With some exceptions, the following places are generally prohibited to a person carrying a handgun under the authority of Texas Constitutional Carry. Premises of:
- School or educational institution, a school or educational institution transportation vehicle, or grounds where a school-sponsored activity is taking place;
- Firearms cannot be carried in or on school premises unless it is done according to the school’s written regulation or with written authorization from the institution.
- With several notable exceptions, federal law generally prohibits the possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a public, parochial, or private school.
- Polling place, including during early voting;
- More specifically, the building or portion of a building of a polling place on election day or during early voting. This distinction accounts for the fact that various buildings and non-prohibited places are used for elections.
- Court or office utilized by a court;
- Racetrack where pari-mutuel wagering takes place: horse or dog racing;
- In this context, “pari-mutuel wagering” means the form of wagering on the outcome of horse racing or greyhound racing in which persons who wager purchase tickets of various denominations on an animal or animals and all wagers for each race are pooled and held by the racetrack association for distribution of the total amount, less the deductions authorized by this subtitle, to holders of tickets on the winning animals.
- The secure area of an airport (e., inside the metal detectors);
- Firearms cannot be carried past airport security, whether on your person or in a bag. Firearms must travel as checked luggage according to TSA guidelines.
- Within 1,000 feet of a location designated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (“TDCJ”) as a place of execution on the day a death sentence is to be imposed;
- Bar (e., 51% location);
- A business is considered a “bar” in Texas if 51% or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
- Professional sporting event;
- Correctional facility;
- Civil commitment facility;
- Hospital or nursing home;
- Mental hospital;
- Amusement park; and
- Room or rooms of an open meeting of a governmental entity.
Where Can You Carry with a Texas LTC?
- With a Texas LTC, a person is exempt from the general federal prohibition on possessing a handgun within 1,000 feet of a school. Even with an LTC, you cannot carry inside a school building unless it is pursuant to the school’s written regulation or with written authorization from the school.
- You can carry on the Lower Colorado River Authority property with an LTC but not without one.
- LTC holders are allowed to carry in amusement parks and nursing homes as long as the facility has not provided effective Texas Penal Code Sections 30.06 and/or 30.07 notice.
- LTC holders may carry into a room or rooms of an open meeting of a government body.
How Does HB 1927 Affect Interactions with Law Enforcement?
Knowing your Second Amendment rights when dealing with law enforcement is vital. HB 1927 contains verbiage specific to what law enforcement can and cannot do to those carrying a firearm:
- A law enforcement officer acting in the lawful discharge of their duties can, at any time, disarm a person if they believe it is necessary for the protection of the person, themselves, or another person. The weapon must be returned to the person before that person is released from the scene unless the firearm returns as stolen or the person is arrested following the encounter. This is not new; it’s simply being restated in HB 1927.
- The Dutton Amendment was removed from the final version of the bill. However, the bill does not explicitly state that a law enforcement officer can detain you for the sole reason you are carrying a handgun. We hope a court would conclude that the seizure of a firearm would constitute a detention and that detention would need to be based on reasonable suspicion of some criminal offense. But until this provision is interpreted, we will have to wait and see.
Will Businesses Post Where You Can and Cannot Carry?
- Property owners and their agents may provide Texas Penal Code Section 30.05 notice to prohibit the unlicensed carrying of a firearm on their property (including inside their business). HB 1927 does not allow you to carry in businesses that post signage that is reasonably likely to come to the attention of the person entering the building that firearms are prohibited.
- Businesses currently post and may continue to provide effective Texas Penal Code Sections 30.06 and/or 30.07 notice prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed (30.06) or openly (30.07) in their place of business.
- The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission states businesses that qualify as bars due to receiving 51% or more of their income from sales of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises must post a sign notifying customers of their 51% status. You cannot carry a firearm in a bar under HB 1927.
What Else Should You Know About Texas Constitutional Carry?
- Your employer can still prohibit you from carrying a firearm, including a handgun, at your place of work.
- The Department of Family and Protective Services will no longer be allowed to prohibit foster parents from transporting a foster child who lives in their home in a vehicle containing a firearm as long as the firearm is in the possession and control of the foster parent and the foster parent is legally allowed to possess a firearm.
- The Department of Public Safety will create a free online firearms safety course on their website. However, there is no mandatory training requirement like there is with the Texas Hunters Safety Course (Hunters Ed.).
- An unlicensed person cannot carry a firearm while intoxicated unless they are on their own property, in their vehicle, or on/in another person’s property or vehicle with their permission. Keep in mind other laws may affect activities while intoxicated and could, as a result, criminalize carrying while intoxicated under different circumstances.
Will There Be Changes to Penalties for Violations?
- Currently, it is a Third Degree felony for a convicted felon to possess a firearm in violation of Texas Penal Code 46.04(a)(1). Under HB 1927, a new offense is created for carrying a handgun by a felon in public. The penalty for a conviction under this law is a Second Degree felony with a minimum 5-year sentence.
- Currently, it is a Class A misdemeanor for a person convicted of Assault Causes Bodily Injury Family Violence to possess a firearm before the fifth anniversary of conviction, or release from confinement or supervision (whichever is latest). Under HB 1927, a new offense is created for the carrying of a handgun by one of these people in public. The penalty under this new provision of law is a Third Degree felony.
- Note: Convicted felons and those convicted of domestic violence offenses can never purchase, possess, or transport a firearm or ammunition under federal law.
- Currently, it is a Class A misdemeanor for a person notified of and currently subject to a family violence protective order in the State of Texas or another state, magistrate’s order for emergency protection, or protective order in a suit for dissolution of marriage to possess a firearm. Under HB 1927, a new offense is created for the carrying of a handgun by a person subject to a protective order, described above, in public. The penalty under this new provision of law is a Third Degree felony.
Read the final version of HB 1927 here, and follow U.S. LawShield on Facebook for the latest updates on Texas Constitutional Carry. For a complete guide on what you need to know about Texas Constitutional Carry, click here.
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