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. ⤴︎