Where can I carry a firearm without a license?
t is in the news daily that guns and ammunition are selling at record rates. This article is to help you understand some of the current law regarding your right to bear arms, primarily the places you are not allowed to carry in Texas. Concealed license holders have a more extensive set of rules that are not focused on here.
In Texas, if you are not disqualified from firearm possession, Penal Code section 46.02 now allows you to lawfully carry a handgun 1) on your own premises or premises under your control; and 2) inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle that is owned by you or under your control (so long as (A) the handgun is not in plain view (i.e. is concealed), (B) you are not engaged in criminal activity other than a Class C traffic misdemeanor and (C) you are not a member of a criminal street gang). “Premises” in the section includes real property and recreational vehicles that are used as living quarters.
This law expands the right of qualified citizens to carry in their cars and on their way to their cars. But, this law strictly requires that, while bearing arms, you not be committing any violation of the law outside of a class C traffic offense. DWI, carrying prescription medicine outside of a properly-labeled bottle, possessing marijuana, and even reckless driving can make you unlawfully carrying a weapon. A violation of this statute is a Class A misdemeanor (up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine), but if committed on any premises licensed to sell alcoholic beverages it becomes a third degree felony (2-10 years, up to $10,000 fine). The law prohibits doing so intentionally knowingly or recklessly. Recklessly means that you are aware but consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.
Additionally, there are places where carrying at all is still generally prohibited. Texas Penal Code section 46.03 lists numerous places, including the premises of school grounds or places school activities are being conducted, on the premises of a polling place on election day, on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court (without authorization), on the premises of a racetrack, in the secured area of an airport, or near a death penalty site on execution day. Violating this law recklessly is enough for a conviction. “Premises” in 46.03 means a building or portion of a building. It does not include any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area. Further, it is not a defense to 46.03 that you have a concealed handgun license. I would caution you that many municipal and county buildings hold court offices, and the statute can be prohibit to carrying at all in any such building (with exceptions). Additionally, carrying on any actual school property should be avoided due to current Federal law.
Federal law, especially 18 U.S.C. section 922, provides additional limitations on where you can carry. First, it outlaws a person “knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.” The term “school zone” means A) in, or on the grounds of, a parochial or private school; or B) within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of a public, parochial, or private school. “School” means a school which provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under State Law. This Federal section does not apply to possession of a firearm 1) on private property not part of school grounds; 2) to a person properly licensed to carry in a school zone; 3) a firearm that is unloaded and locked in a container or on a rack; 4) for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone; 5) or that is unloaded and possessed by an individual while traversing school premises for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting. 18 U.S.C. section 930 additionally prohibits carrying weapons on the actual premises (buildings and parts thereof) of property owned or leased by the Federal government or by the Federal Courts.
The prohibitions mentioned here are not exhaustive, and you should read Chapter 46 of the Texas Penal Code at www.state.tx.us and the Federal laws online, or contact an attorney or the ATF if you have questions about your right to carry in Texas. You should also decide whether you personally should choose to carry a weapon, and whether you are ready for its responsibilities (including the laws and consequences of using deadly force on another human being). Also, making a loaded firearm accessible to a child (under 17 years old) is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. Talk to people who know about firearms at Red River Firearms 903-893-8449, Shooters Supply 903-868-8543 or your firearms dealer to decide what is right for you. Read the statutes and become familiar with both the law and the safety issues concerning your particular weapon if you plan to carry regularly.