Guns in Schools in Texas

Texas law prohibits intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possessing or going with a firearm on the physical premises of a school or educational institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted, or in a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution, whether the school or educational institution is public or private, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution.1 However, Texas generally allows concealed carry license holders to keep firearms or ammunition in a locked, privately owned or leased motor vehicle in K-12 school parking areas provided that the firearm or ammunition is not in plain view.2

While the general prohibition on guns in schools applies to both public and private k-12 schools, as well as institutions of higher education, in 2015, Texas enacted a law allowing individuals with concealed carry licenses to carry concealed handguns on the campuses of public colleges and universities.3

Private or independent institutions of higher education may still regulate or prohibit the concealed carrying of firearms on their campuses, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle owned by the institution, but only after consulting with students, staff, and faculty of the institution.4 Additionally public colleges and universities are authorized to establish reasonable rules, regulations, or other provisions regarding the carrying of concealed handguns by license holders on the campus or premises of the institution so long as they do no not generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus of the institution.5 If the institution prohibits concealed carry in a portion of the campus, the institution must provide effective notice with respect to that portion.6

See our Guns in Schools policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Tex. Penal Code § 46.03(a). See also Tex. Educ. Code § 37.125(a) (regarding exhibiting, using or threatening to exhibit or use a firearm in a school bus in a manner intended to alarm or to damage school property). ⤴︎
  2. Tex. Educ. Code § 37.0815 (as amended by 2017 TX SB 1566, Section 13. ⤴︎
  3. See 2015 Tx. S.B. 11, creating Tex. Gov’t. Code § 411.2031. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎

Guns in Vehicles in Texas

Texas has no laws regarding the carrying of long guns (rifles or shotguns) in motor vehicles.

Texas does not require a person to have a valid handgun license in order to carry a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft if the vehicle is owned by the person or under the person’s control.  However, Texas generally prohibits intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carrying a handgun in plain view in a motor vehicle or watercraft, except by handgun license holders carrying the handgun in a shoulder or belt holster.1

Texas law also prohibits intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possessing or going with a firearm on a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution except pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution.2 However, Texas passed a law in 2015, which exempted valid handgun license holders from this restriction, effective August 1, 2016.3 Texas law now generally prohbits K-12 school districts from preventing concealed carry license holders from keeping firearms or ammunition in a locked, privately owned or leased motor vehicle in K-12 school parking areas, provided that the firearm or ammunition is not in plain view.4

In 2011, Texas passed a law prohibiting the Department of Family and Child Services from restricting a foster parent from carrying a handgun in a vehicle while transporting a foster child.5

Notes
  1. Tex. Penal Code § 46.02(a-1). For other narrow exceptions to the requirement that firearms in cars and watercraft be concealed, see section 46.15(b). ⤴︎
  2. Tex. Penal Code § 46.03(a). ⤴︎
  3. See 2015 Tx. S.B. 11, amending Tex. Penal Code § 46.03(a)(1). ⤴︎
  4. Tex. Educ. Code § 37.0815 (as amended by 2017 TX SB 1566, Section 13. ⤴︎
  5. Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 42.042(e-2). ⤴︎

Immunity Statutes in Texas

Texas law provides that a governmental unit (including a municipality or county) may not bring suit against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association, or seller for recovery of damages resulting from, or injunctive relief or abatement of a nuisance relating to, the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public, or against a sport shooting range, the owners or operators of a sport shooting range, or the owners of real property on which a sport shooting range is operated, for the lawful discharge of firearms on the sport shooting range.1 The rules regarding sport shooting ranges were added in 2011.

The Texas Attorney General, however, may bring such a suit on behalf of the state or any other governmental unit.2 In addition, a governmental unit acting on behalf of the state or any other governmental unit may bring such a suit if approved in advance by the legislature.3

In addition, a governmental unit may bring an action against a sport shooting range, the owners or operators of a sport shooting range, or the owners of real property on which a sport shooting range is operating for injunctive relief to enforce a valid ordinance, statute, or regulation, or to require the sport shooting range to comply with generally accepted standards followed in the sport shooting range industry in this state at the time of the sport shooting range’s construction, if the sport shooting range began operation after September 1, 2011.4

A governmental unit may bring an action against a firearms manufacturer, trade association, or seller for recovery of damages for:

  • Breach of contract or warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by a governmental unit;
  • Damage or harm to property owned or leased by the governmental unit caused by a defective firearm or ammunition;
  • Personal injury or death, if such action arises from a governmental unit’s claim for subrogation;
  • Injunctive relief to enforce a valid ordinance, statute, or regulation; or
  • Contribution under the law relating to proportionate responsibility.5

In a products liability action brought against a manufacturer or seller of a firearm or ammunition that alleges a design defect in the firearm or ammunition, the burden is on the claimant to prove, in addition to any other elements that the claimant must prove, that:

  • The actual design of the firearm or ammunition was defective, causing the firearm or ammunition not to function in a manner reasonably expected by an ordinary consumer of firearms or ammunition; and
  • The defective design was a producing cause of the personal injury, property damage, or death.6

Further, the “claimant may not prove the existence of the defective design by a comparison or weighing of the benefits of the firearm or ammunition against the risk of personal injury, property damage, or death posed by its potential to cause such injury, damage, or death when discharged.”7

Texas law also prohibits a civil action from being brought against a sport shooting range, or the owner of the range for recovery of damages resulting from, or injunctive relief or abatement of a nuisance relating to, the discharge of firearms.8 Certain exceptions exist. Damages may be awarded, or an injunction may be obtained, in a civil action brought against a sport shooting range if the claimant shows by a preponderance of the evidence, through the testimony of one or more expert witnesses, that the sport shooting range, its owner or operator, or the owner of real property on which it is operated deviated from the standard of care that is reasonably expected of an ordinarily prudent sport shooting range in the same or similar circumstances.9

Texas law prohibits any person from bringing a nuisance or similar cause of action against a shooting range based on noise if the shooting range is in compliance with all applicable municipal and county ordinances, orders, and rules regulating noise, or if no applicable noise ordinance, order, or rule exists.10 In addition:

A governmental official may not seek a civil or criminal penalty against a sport shooting range or its owner or operator based on the violation of a municipal or county ordinance, order, or rule regulating noise:

(1) if the sport shooting range is in compliance with the applicable ordinance, order, or rule; or
(2) if no applicable noise ordinance, order, or rule exists.11

See our policy page on Gun Industry Immunity for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.001(b). ⤴︎
  2. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.001(e). ⤴︎
  3. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.001(c). ⤴︎
  4. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.001(f). ⤴︎
  5. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.001(d). ⤴︎
  6. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 82.006(a). ⤴︎
  7. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 82.006(b). ⤴︎
  8. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.052(a). A civil action may be brought, however, against a sport shooting range for recovery of damages for:

    • Breach of contract for use of the real property on which a sport shooting range is located;
    • Damage or harm to private property caused by the discharge of firearms on a sport shooting range;
    • Personal injury or death caused by the discharge of a firearm on a sport shooting range; or
    • Injunctive relief to enforce a valid ordinance, statute, or regulation.

    Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.052(b).
    ⤴︎

  9. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.052(c). The law provides for the use of expert testimony to establish the standard of care. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 128.053. ⤴︎
  10. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 250.001(c). ⤴︎
  11. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 250.001(b). ⤴︎

Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Texas

Municipal Authority

Preemption Statute

Texas has an explicit preemption statute that states:

[A] municipality may not adopt regulations relating to:

  1. the transfer, private ownership, keeping, transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms, air guns, knives, ammunition, or firearm or air gun supplies; or
  2. the discharge of a firearm or air gun at a sport shooting range.1

Exceptions

Municipalities retain the authority to:

  • Require residents or public employees to be armed for personal or national defense, law enforcement or another lawful purpose2
  • Regulate the discharge of firearms or air guns within the limits of the municipality, other than at a sport shooting range3
  • Regulate the use of property, the location of a business, or uses at a business under the municipality’s fire code, zoning ordinance, or land-use regulations as long as the code, ordinance, or regulations are not used to circumvent the intent of the preemption statute
  • Regulate the use of firearms or air guns in the case of an insurrection, riot, or natural disaster if the municipality finds the regulations necessary to protect public health and safety (this exception does not authorize the seizure or confiscation of firearms or ammunition from any person in lawful possession of firearms or ammunition)4
  • Regulate the carrying of a firearm or air gun by a person other than a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun under Texas law at: 1) a public park; 2) a public meeting of a municipality, county, or other governmental body; 3) a political rally, parade or official political meeting; or 4) a non-firearms-related school, college, or professional athletic event. (This exception does not apply if the firearm is in or carried to or from an area designated for use in a lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting event and the firearm is of the type commonly used in the activity.)5 The Attorney General has interpreted this exception to mean that municipalities are prohibited from regulating the carrying of concealed handguns in city parks by persons licensed to carry a handgun6
  • Regulate the hours of operation of a sport shooting range, except that the hours of operation may not be more limited than the least limited hours of operation of any other business in the municipality other than a business permitted or licensed to sell or serve alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption7
  • Regulate the carrying of an air gun by a minor on public property or on private property without the consent of the property owner8

Interpretation

As of the date this page was last updated, Giffords Law Center is not aware of any cases interpreting these statutory preemption provisions.

However, the Texas Attorney General has issued a formal opinion that a Houston ordinance aimed at preventing children from discharging firearms was not preempted.9 The Houston ordinance also prohibited an adult from facilitating or permitting the discharge or possession of a firearm by allowing a child to obtain unsupervised access to a firearm.10 In essence, the ordinance regulated the keeping and storing of firearms by adults.11 The Attorney General determined that the ordinance did not violate the preemption statute because home rule cities like Houston possess broad powers of self-government. The preemption statute grants them authority to regulate the discharge of firearms within their limits, and the object of Houston’s ordinance was to regulate that specific area.12

More recently, the Attorney General issued an opinion that certain municipalities may prohibit the discharge of certain firearms or other weapons on property located within their original corporate limits.13

The Attorney General also issued an opinion that municipal housing authorities are subject to the preemption statute and that this statute precludes those authorities from adopting a regulation providing for a tenant’s eviction for the otherwise legal possession of a firearm.14

Other Statutory Provisions

In 2015, the legislature prohibited an agency or political subdivision from excluding from government property a concealed handgun license holder carrying a gun unless state law prohibits firearms on the premises.15 Moreover, the 2015 law allows individuals who believe they have been harmed by a local government violation of the state’s preemption statute to file a complaint of violation with the Texas Attorney General, who may file suit against the agency or political subdivision16 to collect civil penalties17 and expenses, including attorney fees.18

Immunity

For state laws prohibiting municipalities from filing certain types of lawsuits against the gun industry and shooting ranges, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Texas.

County Authority

Preemption Statutes

Counties are preempted from regulating:

(1) the transfer, private ownership, keeping, transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms, ammunition, or firearm supplies; or

(2) the discharge of a firearm at a sport shooting range.19

A commissioners court of a county (the county legislative body) is not authorized to regulate the transfer, ownership, possession, or transportation of firearms or require the registration of firearms.20

Exceptions

However, Texas permits the commissioners courts to regulate the discharge of firearms on lots that are “10 acres or smaller and are located in the unincorporated area of the county in a subdivision.”21

In addition, though the commissioners court of a county may authorize the issuance of an identification card to individuals, permitting entrance into a county building that houses a justice court, county court, county court at law, or district court without passing through security, the possession of that card does not authorize a person to possess a firearm in a county building that houses any of these courts.22

Interpretation

The Texas Attorney General has issued an opinion that counties may prohibit concealed handgun license holders from carrying concealed handguns in county parks,23 and that a rapid transit authority may prohibit concealed handgun licensees from carrying handguns while on public transportation.24

Immunity

For state laws prohibiting counties from filing certain types of lawsuits against the gun industry and shooting ranges, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Texas.

Notes
  1. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001(a). ⤴︎
  2. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001(b). ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Id. Tex. Local Gov’t Code 229.001(c). ⤴︎
  6. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *10-11. ⤴︎
  7. Tex. Local Gov’t Code 229.001(b). See also section 229.004 (limiting certain municipalities’ authority to regulate the discharge of certain weapons in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the municipalities and newly annexed areas). ⤴︎
  8. See also, Tex. Local Gov’t Code §§ 342.003(a)(8), 342.003(b) (under Fire Regulations statute, subject to preemption restrictions (Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001), a municipality may “prohibit or otherwise regulate the use of fireworks and firearms….” ⤴︎
  9. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 215.001 (now section 229.001); Texas Ltr. Op. Att’y Gen. 94-56 (1994), 1994 Tex. AG LEXIS 13. ⤴︎
  10. Id. at *2. ⤴︎
  11. Id. ⤴︎
  12. Id. at *3-4. ⤴︎
  13. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0862 (2011), 2011 Tex. AG LEXIS 33. ⤴︎
  14. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-71 (1991), 1991 Tex. AG LEXIS 87, *10. ⤴︎
  15. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(a); see 2015 Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. KP-0049 (Texas Attorney General found that section 411.209 would prevent a governmental entity from prohibiting handguns from a place where handguns may be lawfully carried “through oral or written notice that does not conform” to statutory language). ⤴︎
  16. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(d)-(f). ⤴︎
  17. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(b) (civil penalties of $1,000-$1,500 for the first violation, $10,000-$10,500 for the second violation), (c) (“Each day of a continuing violation … constitutes a separate violation”). ⤴︎
  18. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(g) (also, “court costs …, investigative costs, witness fees, and deposition costs”). ⤴︎
  19. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 236.002. ⤴︎
  20. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 235.023. ⤴︎
  21. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 235.022. ⤴︎
  22. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 291.010(c). ⤴︎
  23. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *11. ⤴︎
  24. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, at *4-6. ⤴︎

Machine Guns & Automatic Firearms in Texas

Texas law prohibits intentionally or knowingly possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing, or selling a machine gun.1 However, it is a defense to prosecution if the machine gun was properly registered under federal law.2

Federal law requires machine guns to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and generally prohibits the transfer or possession of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986.3 In December 2018, ATF finalized a rule to include bump stocks within the definition of a machine gun subject to this federal law, meaning that bump stocks will be generally banned as of March 26, 2019.4

See our Machine Guns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Tex. Penal Code § 46.05(a)(2). ⤴︎
  2. Tex. Penal Code § 46.05(b), (c). ⤴︎
  3. 18 U.S.C. § 922(o); 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). ⤴︎
  4. Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg. 66,514 (Dec. 26, 2018) (to be codified at 27 C.F.R. pts. 447, 478, 479). ⤴︎

Mental Health Reporting in Texas

See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers.

A law adopted in Texas in 2009 requires the Department of Public Safety (“Department”) to establish a rule for the submission of information to the FBI for use in NICS. The law requires the clerk of a court to prepare and submit information to the Department within 30 days whenever the court:

  • Orders a person to receive inpatient mental health services;
  • Acquits a person in a criminal case by reason of insanity or lack of mental responsibility;
  • Commits a person determined to have mental retardation for long-term placement in a residential care facility;
  • Appoints a guardian of the incapacitated adult individual, based on the determination that the person lacks the mental capacity to manage the person’s affairs;
  • Determines a person is incompetent to stand trial; or
  • Finds a person is entitled to relief from disabilities.2

The information that must be submitted is:

  • The complete name, race, and gender of the person;
  • Any known identifying number of the person, including social security number, driver’s license number, or state identification number;
  • The person’s date of birth; and
  • The information that causes the person to be prohibited from possessing firearms.3

If an order previously reported to the Department is reversed by an appellate court, it is the duty of the clerk of the court to notify the Department of the reversal.4

The law requires the clerk of the court to forward this information to the Department in an electronic format as prescribed by the Department, if practicable.5 The law requires the Department to establish a procedure, by a rule, for submission of this information to NICS.6

This information is “confidential,” and the Department may disseminate this information only to the extent necessary to allow the FBI to collect and maintain a list of persons prohibited from possessing firearms.7 However, the Department must grant access to this information to the person who is the subject of the information.8

The 2009 law also provides a process by which a person who has been discharged from court ordered mental health services may obtain relief from the federal firearms disability,9 and requires the Department to establish a rule for submission of this information to NICS.10

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Texas Background Checks section and the section entitled Prohibited Purchasers Generally.

Notes
  1. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4). ⤴︎
  2. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(a). ⤴︎
  3. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(b). ⤴︎
  4. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(d). ⤴︎
  5. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(c). ⤴︎
  6. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052 (b). See 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 27.141 for the relevant rule. ⤴︎
  7. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052(b), (d). ⤴︎
  8. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052(c). ⤴︎
  9. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 574.088. ⤴︎
  10. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052(e). ⤴︎