Teaching business law and employment law in the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business does not give me many opportunities to talk about the Second Amendment and gun laws. Sometimes, the topic comes up in class when we discuss constitutional law. Or, when we discuss whether business owners can prohibit people from carrying firearms onto their premises.
However, in 2021, Texas adopted a slew of new gun laws (22 to be exact); giving me a chance to talk about the subject.
The new gun law that has received the most attention is House Bill 1927, known as the Firearm Carry Act of 2021. This law brings Constitutional Carry to Texas. HB 1927 allows qualified individuals in Texas to carry a handgun in public without a permit or license, and without any prior training.
There are, however, restrictions to Constitutional Carry in Texas, which I will highlight below. And for those of you who are interested in learning more about the subject, I’ll provide links to resources with additional information about HB 1927. At the end of this post, I’ll provide a list of the 22 new gun laws in Texas that went into effect in 2021.
HB 1927 – Constitutional Carry in Texas
When Governor Abbot signed HB 1927 into law on June 16, 2021, Texas became the 21st state to embrace Constitutional Carry. HB 1927 allows eligible individuals to carry a handgun in public without the requirement of a license or permit. Constitutional Carry under HB 1927 became effective on September 1, 2021. Before September 2021, Texans who wanted to carry a handgun in public were required to have a license to carry. Now, people in Texas (if eligible) may carry a handgun in public without a permit so long as they comply with the rules of Constitutional Carry in Texas.
HB 1927 establishes rules for Constitutional Carry in Texas. The rules are based on:
- How you carry
- Where you can carry
- Prohibited conduct
What is Constitutional Carry?
Before I get into some of the specifics of HB 1927, I think a short description of Constitutional Carry is in order. The term “Constitutional Carry” stands for the right to carry a handgun in public, either openly or concealed, without the requirement of a permit or license. The term is rooted in the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. To date, 21 states have adopted some form of Constitutional Carry legislation. Some states that have adopted Constitutional Carry have legislation that restricts the method of carry. Other states have age restrictions or require you to be a resident of the state. Since there is no uniform set of rules with respect to Constitutional Carry, it is important to know the laws of the state in which you live or where you plan to carry under the authority of Constitutional Carry.
Who is eligible to carry under HB 1927?
HB 1927 does not allow everyone to carry a handgun without a license. There are restrictions. The first restriction is age. You must be at least 21.
The second restriction is you must not be prohibited from possessing a firearm in a public place under Texas law. In Texas, you may not possess a firearm in public if:
- You have been convicted of a felony,
- You have been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor for domestic violence in the last five years from the date you were released from confinement or community supervision (whichever is later),
- You are subject to certain protective orders relating to domestic violence.
The third restriction is you have not, within the last 5 years, been convicted of any of the following offenses: assault causing bodily injury, deadly conduct, terroristic threat, disorderly conduct (discharging of a firearm), or disorderly conduct (display of a firearm).
One More Restriction
The fourth restriction is you must not be prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law.
Here is a relatively easy list to use to determine if you can carry in Texas under the authority of HB 1927. To be eligible to carry a handgun in Texas without a permit, you must be able to answer yes to each of the following questions.
- I am at least 21 years of age
- In the last 5 years, I have not been convicted of:
- Assault causing bodily injury
- Deadly conduct
- Terroristic threat
- Disorderly conduct – Discharge of a Firearm
- Disorderly conduct – Display of a Firearm
- I have never been convicted of a felony
- I am not a fugitive from justice
- I do not unlawfully use, and I am not addicted to, any controlled substance
- I have not been declared a mental defective by a court
- I have not been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- I am not in the United States illegally
- I was not dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces
- I have not renounced my U.S. citizenship
- I am not subject to a court order restraining me from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner.
- I have not engaged in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child
- I have never been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
How to carry under the Texas law?
Texas Constitutional Carry applies only to handguns. A handgun is any firearm that is designed, made, or adopted to be fired with one hand. Under HB 1927, you must carry your handgun concealed or in a holster. Carrying concealed means no part of the handgun is visible. For example, carrying your handgun inside a pocket, bag, holster, case or jacket is carrying concealed so long as no part of the handgun is visible. If any part of your handgun is visible, you must carry your handgun in a holster. The new gun laws in Texas do not specify the type of holster you must use.
Where can you carry?
Generally, an eligible person carrying under Texas Constitutional Carry may carry their handgun in any public place. This includes places that are not off-limits under Texas law or have not been made off-limits by a private business or employer. Texas law prohibits the carrying of a gun in any of the following locations:
- School or educational institution, a school or educational institution transportation vehicle, or grounds where a school-sponsored activity is taking place
- Polling place, including during early voting
- Court or office utilized by a court
- Racetrack where pari-mutuel wagering takes place: horse or dog racing
- The secure area of an airport (i.e., inside the metal detectors)
- 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
- Bars (any establishment that sells alcohol to drink and receives 51% or more of its income from alcohol sales)
- Professional sporting event
- Correctional facility
- Civil commitment facility
- Hospital or nursing home
- Mental hospital
- Amusement park
- Room or rooms of an open meeting of a governmental entity.
In addition to this explicit off-limits list, a private business may choose to ban you from carrying a handgun on its premises. If a business owner chooses to ban people who are carrying without a license from entering its premises, the business owner may provide notice that no guns are allowed. Unlike the strict requirements for signage necessary to ban licensed holders from entering a business, Texas law does not require any specific form of signage to exclude persons carrying under the authority of Constitutional Carry. The only legal requirement is that the sign is reasonably likely to come to the attention of the person entering the building.
Employers may also prohibit you from carrying a firearm at your place of work.
What are some other restrictions under Texas Constitutional Carry?
When carrying a handgun in Texas under the authority of Texas Constitutional Carry, you must keep your handgun concealed or holstered. You may not display or brandish your handgun in a manner intended to alarm or frighten others. Texas law also prohibits you from carrying your handgun in public while intoxicated.
How does Texas Constitutional Carry Affect License to Carry?
Even though eligible Texans may carry without a license under HB 1927, Texans may still obtain a license to carry under the Texas License to Carry (LTC) program. Having a LTC has advantages that are not available to unlicensed people who carry under the authority of Texas Constitutional Carry. These advantages include reciprocity with other states, authority to carry into some locations not available to unlicensed people, and expedited firearm purchases.
How does Texas Constitutional Carry Affect Campus Carry?
Since I teach on a university campus, I would be remiss not to discuss whether HB 1927 affects Campus Carry. In 2015, Governor Abbot signed Senate Bill 11, known as the Campus Carry law. Campus Carry allows people with a Texas LTC to carry a concealed handgun on university campuses in Texas, including buildings on campus. A person without a LTC carrying under the authority of Texas Constitutional Carry is allowed, under HB 1927, to carry in the parking lots, parking garages, streets, sidewalks, and walkways of a college campus. They cannot, though, carry into a building on a university campus.
What are the penalties for failing to comply?
Listing all the penalties for failing to abide by terms of HB 1927 is beyond the scope of this post. However, here are a few examples of the penalties that can be imposed:
- The penalty for a conviction for carrying a handgun by a felon in public is a Second-Degree felony with a minimum 5-year sentence.
- The penalty for a conviction of a person who possesses a handgun who is ineligible to carry because of a prior conviction of Assault Causes Bodily Injury Family Violence is a Third-Degree felony.
- The penalty for a conviction of a person who possesses a handgun who is ineligible to carry because they are subject to a family violence protective order or a protective order in a divorce is a Third-Degree Felony.
As you can see, Constitutional Carry can be complex and the penalties for failing to comply with the law are severe. If you plan to carry under the authority of Texas Constitutional Carry, I urge you to do your research and, if you have any questions, talk with an attorney. If you are interested in learning more about Texas Constitutional Carry, here are some resources.
The Texas State Law Library is a great resource. Here are some links to pages of the Texas State Law Library discussing HB 1927.
Another great resource is Texas Law Shield, a private legal defense company. Here is a link to their page discussing what you need to know about Texas Constitutional Carry.
New in 2021 – Gun Laws in Texas
As promised, here is a list of the 22 bills relating to guns signed into law in 2021 by Governor Greg Abbott.
- House Bill 1927 – Allows eligible people in Texas to carry handguns in public without a license (known as Constitutional Carry).
- House Bill 2622 – Prohibits Texas state agencies and local governments from enforcing new federal gun rules not included in a Texas code, such as background checks on private transfers or gun
- House Bill 1500 – Prevents Texas government entities (including the governor) from banning the sale or transportation of firearms or ammunition during a declared disaster or emergency.
- House Bill 957 – Exempts firearm suppressors made and that remain in Texas from federal laws and regulations.
- House Bill 1407 – Allows license holders to carry visible, holstered handguns anywhere in a motor vehicle or boat, rather than having to wear the handgun in a shoulder or belt holster.
- House Bill 1387 – Allows certain foster homes to store guns and ammunition together in the same locked location, rather than requiring the items to be stored separately.
- House Bill 1069 – Allows certain first responders in less populous counties to carry handguns while performing their duties.
- House Bill 2112 – Removes the requirement that handguns must be carried in a “shoulder or belt” holster and allows any type of holster to be used to carry a handgun
- House Bill 103: Creates a statewide active shooter alert system.
- House Bill 4346 – Prohibits certain firearm restrictions on a property during the use of an easement.
- House Bill 29 – Allows state-owned public buildings to provide self-service weapon lockers.
- House Bill 1920 – Expands and clarifies what constitutes a secured area of an airport in relation to possessing a firearm.
- House Bill 2675 – Requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to expedite the handgun license process for individuals “who are at increased risk of becoming victims of violence.”
- House Bill 918 – Makes young adults between the ages of 18-20 eligible for a license to carry a handgun if they are protected under certain court orders related to family violence.
- House Bill 781 – Allows junior college school marshals to carry concealed handguns rather than storing them.
- Senate Bill 741 – Allows school marshals in public school districts, open-enrollment charters, and private schools to carry concealed handguns while on the job rather than storing them.
- Senate Bill 20 – Allows hotel guests to carry and store firearms and ammunition in their rooms.
- Senate Bill 19 – Prohibits government entities from contracting with businesses that “discriminate against the firearm or ammunition industries.”
- Senate Bill 162 – Makes it a state crime to lie on a background check to illegally purchase a firearm
- Senate Bill 550 – Removes the requirement that handguns must be carried in a “shoulder or belt” holster, expanding what kinds of holsters are legal.
- Senate Bill 313 – Creates a sales and use tax exemption for firearm safety equipment.
- Senate Bill 168 – Requires schools to use best practices when conducting active shooter drills, so they’re less harmful to students’ mental health and wellbeing.
Robin E. Clark, J.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Law