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Guns, Gun Rights, Gun Ownership in Texas, and Weapons Arrests: Things To Know After Orlando

The Gun Control Debate: What You Should Know About Owning and Carrying a Gun in Texas

Time has passed, and still the country is reeling about the tragedy in Orlando, Florida, where a single individual was able to quickly kill 50 people and injure as many more in a matter of minutes. Lots of people are looking at guns, and gun laws, as the problem here. It’s a hot, hot topic right now: finger-pointing at guns as the reason for what happened in that nightclub.

There’s an editorial in Rolling Stone calling for the Second Amendment to be repealed. There’s a statement issued by the American Medical Association that guns are a “public health crisis.” Jeh Johnson is calling gun control necessary for Homeland Security. And, of course, the debate is becoming a big part of the current presidential campaign.

But let’s not go into all that stuff.

Guns in Texas: What You Need to Know

Instead, let’s take a moment to consider what we’re discussing here — because “guns” is just too, too broad a term, for one thing. To truly understand what is being discussed, we all need to know the wide variety of things that come under that heading “guns.”

And most importantly, we all need to know exactly what is legal, and what is illegal, to do with a firearm or gun or assault weapon or handgun or pistol, etc., in the State of Texas.

  • What’s going to get you arrested?

  • What’s going to get your name into some government database?

Here’s your 2016 Texas Gun Cheat Sheet, from a Criminal Defense Perspective.




1. What’s a Gun, Anyway?

All sorts of devices come under the general description of “gun,” and it’s important to recognize how much this word “gun” covers. For instance, there are stun guns and air guns. Tasers can inflict serious damage, even kill someone.

And while all these shoot something at a target, they’re not considered a weapon in the same way as an assault rifle or pistol.

Most guns that shoot bullets (projectiles) are considered as either “small arms” or “long guns.” Long guns are things like cannons and rifles with a barrel longer than 16 inches.

Small Arms / Light Weapons

Small arms are guns that don’t weigh all that much and are easily carried and used by a person. Small arms can mean all sorts of weapons, and they’re usually the kind of gun that is involved in “civilian casualities” around the world, according to the researchers.  Referencing the list created by the 1997 UN Panel of Governmental Expert (available on www.un.org):

1. small arms can include:

  • revolvers
  • self-loading pistols
  • rifles
  • carbines
  • assault rifles
  • sub-machine guns
  • light machine guns.

2. Light weapons can include:

  • heavy machine guns
  • hand-held under-barrel grenade launchers
  • mounted grenade launchers
  • portable anti-aircraft guns
  • portable anti-tank guns
  • recoilless rifles
  • portable launchers of anti-tank missile and rocket systems
  • portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS); and
  • mortars of calibres of less than 100 mm.

Pistols and Assault Rifles

Pistols are a specific kind of firearm. Many Texas weapons charges are based upon a person being found carrying a pistol, or using this kind of firearm during the commission of a crime (like robbery, for instance).

Assault rifles are another kind of firearm. They are also considered a small arm, and it was an assault rifle that was involved in the Orlando massacre this month.

When politicians stump to control guns, or to ban them, they usually are focusing upon specific types of small arms. For instance, back in 2013, Dianne Feinstein proposed the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013,” to Congress with a specific list of 153 small arms (mostly assault rifles but also some semi-automatic guns, as well.) The bill didn’t make it into law, by the way.

2. Who Makes Guns?

Many gun makers are well-known, especially companies like Smith & Wesson or Remington whose names have become a part of our American History. However, there are lots and lots of companies that are in the business of manufacturing all kinds of guns. Here’s a list. And there are gunsmiths, as well, who are private individuals building or altering guns as craftsmen.

Under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), these gun makers can build their own firearm legally, as long as they are doing so for personal use and not for profit. Under the law, if they later decide to give that gun away, or sell it, they can do so. Key here is the original intent at the time that the gun was made by the craftsman: legally, it had to have been made for his or her own personal use.

3. Where Can You Buy Guns in Texas?

In Texas, there are stores that sell guns to customers. You can also buy guns from dealers at Gun Shows. Or surf the web for them. Those that sell guns must comply with federal law and have a Federal Firearms License Permit.  There can also be private sales between two individuals.

4. What Must You Show to Legally Buy a Gun in Texas?

In Texas, you will have to present a Texas Driver’s License.

5. What Kind of Small Arm Can I Buy in Texas?

Right now, it is legal to buy pistols, rifles, short-barrels, machine guns, assault rifles, and semi-automatic weapons. There’s also no limit on the number of magazines you can purchase and own.

Assault Rifles in Texas

It’s now known that the gun used in the Orlando Shooting was a Sig Sauer MCX rifle. It’s a form of assault rifle using gas piston technology.

Assault rifles can be purchased in Texas today. Texas law has no ban on assault weapons.

There’s also no federal ban on assault rifles, either. Several years ago, there was an assault weapon ban. It was in effect from 1994 to 2004. Even this law didn’t prohibit all assault rifles, it just mandated that a semi-automatic rifle like the AR-15 or the Sig Sauer MCX could only have one of three components: a folding stock; a pistol grip; a bayonet mount; etc.

Texas has no form of gun registration. Some forms of assault rifles do have to be registered with the federal government under federal law.

Texas Weapons Charges: Facing Arrest for Your Gun

The Texas Penal Code does have lots of laws that regulate guns in Texas. Chapter 46 of the Texas Penal Code is dedicated to “weapons,” read it here. We’ve discussed the details on what Texas weapons laws involve and what can get you arrested on weapons charges in Dallas and statewide in a series of posts, including:

Right now, it’s being reported that Texas Lawmakers are predicted to expand gun rights for Texans when the new legislative session begins this fall. See, “Texas lawmakers likely to expand where people can take guns,” reported by Austin’s KXAN this week.

It’s also expected that many Texans may consider buying their own firearm or gun and getting a concealed carry permit now or in the future.

It’s important that everyone understand what they can and cannot do with their gun, and what will make them vulnerable to arrest and facing a Texas weapons charge. Things can be tricky under Texas gun laws.

For more information, check out our web resources page, Arrested for Unlawful Use or Illegal Possession of Weapons or Firearms in Texas, as well as Michael Lowe’s Case Results.

Guns/ Knives

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