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Understanding Texas Gun Laws: Deciphering the Wild West

We want to provide a comprehensive overview of Texas gun laws in this post. Remember, laws can change frequently, so it’s always advisable to consult with a legal expert or appropriate government agency for the most current information.

Table of Contents

Texans’ Right to Bear Arms

The right to own and carry guns is a big part of Texas’s history, culture, and laws. This right comes from the U.S. Constitution and the Texas State Constitution, which clearly say that every citizen has the right to own and carry guns for self-defense or to protect the state.

In Texas, this right is understood in a broad sense. First off, gun owners don’t have to register their guns with the state. Also, no state-level rules restrict the ownership of certain types of firearms like the so-called “assault weapons” (AR-15, FAL, HK91, etc.), .50 caliber rifles, or large-capacity magazines. However, certain people, like those who’ve been convicted of serious crimes, people with mental health issues, or people who are under restraining orders, aren’t allowed to own guns. Plus, all gun owners must follow federal laws, with their own set of rules and requirements.

What Guns Texans Can and Can’t Own

  • Handguns: You can buy a handgun without a permit if you’re older than 21 and even carry it outside your property without a License to Carry (LTC).
  • Rifles: In Texas, you can own both semi-automatic rifles and single-shot rifles without needing to register them or follow any special state rules. If you want to own a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR) that has a barrel less than 16 inches long, you must register it with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and pay a $200 tax.
  • Shotguns: Just like with rifles, Texas doesn’t have any special state rules or registration requirements for shotguns, but if you want to own a Short-Barreled Shotgun (SBS) with barrels less than 18 inches long, you must register it with the ATF and pay a $200 tax.
  • Machine Guns: Machine guns are automatic firearms that keep firing bullets as long as you hold down the trigger and there’s ammo left. In Texas, machine guns are generally not allowed unless they’re registered under federal law. Read more about full-auto in Texas here.

Buying & Owning Guns in Texas


Age Requirements

In Texas, you have to be at least 18 years old to buy a rifle or shotgun, and at least 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer. However, these age requirements do not apply to the private sale or gift of firearms between private persons.

Background Checks

If you’re buying a gun from a licensed dealer, you should show your ID and go through a background check. But if you’re buying from a private seller, they don’t have to run a background check on you.

Waiting Periods

Unlike some states, Texas does not require a mandatory waiting period before you can take home a gun you’ve bought. As soon as you fill out all the necessary paperwork and pass the background check, you can take your gun home.

Who Can’t Own Guns

Certain people aren’t allowed to own guns under both federal and state law, including people convicted of serious crimes, people with certain mental illnesses, people subject to protective orders, and others.

Carrying Guns in Texas


Permitless Carry

As of September 1, 2021, most people who are over the age of 21 can carry a handgun without needing a permit both openly and/or concealed, meaning you are no longer required to hold a License to Carry (LTC) for carrying a handgun in most public places. The handgun must always be in a holster.

When You Need an LTC

Even though you don’t generally need an LTC to carry a handgun, you might still want to get one if you want to carry it in places where those without a license are restricted, like schools and colleges.

Businesses and people who own private property can still choose whether they want to allow or ban people from carrying guns without a license, carrying guns openly with a license, carrying guns concealed with a license, or any mix of these.

Also, if Texans want to carry their handguns in another state that requires a handgun license and has an agreement with Texas, they might still need to get a Texas LTC.

Constitutional Carry of a Long Gun

Texas gun law doesn’t spell out the rules about carrying long guns (like rifles and shotguns). But the law does say that certain people can’t own or have any kind of gun. Also, if someone shows a gun in a scary way in public, they could be breaking the law.

Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry

There are different reasons why people might choose to carry their guns openly or concealed. Some people believe that if criminals know someone is armed, they’ll be less likely to commit a crime. Those who prefer concealed carry argue that it avoids alarming the public and maintains the element of surprise in a defensive situation.

More Texas gun laws regarding carrying guns here.

Places Where Carrying Guns Isn’t Allowed

In Texas, people’s right to carry guns is generally respected, but there are still some places where guns aren’t allowed (read Section 46.03). Here are a few examples:

  • Schools and Other Educational Institutions: Generally, you can’t bring guns into schools or other educational institutions generally prohibit the possession of firearms on their premises. This also applies to vehicles that are used to transport students. However, those with a valid license may be allowed to carry concealed handguns in parking areas of colleges and universities.
  • Government Buildings: Government offices and buildings, including courthouses, are typically off-limits for firearms. It’s important to check specific regulations before entering any government building with a gun.
  • Airports: While you can travel with guns if they’re properly stored and declared, carrying a firearm in secure areas of an airport is prohibited. Always follow Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines when traveling with a gun.
  • Polling Places: Firearms are not allowed at polling places during elections to ensure the safety and neutrality of these locations.
  • Racetracks: Guns aren’t allowed at racetracks.
  • Execution Sites: It’s illegal to carry firearms within 1,000 feet of a place of execution on the day of an execution.
  • Hospitals and Nursing Homes: Guns are generally not allowed in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.
  • Amusement Parks: Amusement parks often have strict rules against guns on their premises.

Remember, this list doesn’t cover everything, as there might be local rules that also apply. Always make sure you understand both the state and local laws before you carry a gun.

Storing Guns in Texas


Safe Storage Practice

Even though Texas doesn’t require you to store guns in a specific way or make sure a locking device is included when a gun is sold, it’s strongly recommended to store guns safely. This could involve using a gun safe, lock box, trigger lock, or some other secure storage method.

Preventing Child Access

In Texas, you can be held criminally responsible if a kid under 17 gets to a gun that’s ready to fire (meaning it’s loaded, whether or not there’s a bullet in the chamber). The person can be held responsible if they, with criminal negligence, didn’t secure the gun properly or left it somewhere where they knew or should’ve known the child could get it. However, there are exceptions where the person is not guilty under this law if the child’s access to the gun was supervised by a person older than 18, was for lawful purposes, or the child accessed the gun by breaking into a property.

The penalties are more serious if a child fires the gun and hurts or kills someone. If you’re related to the child who fired the gun and the child was hurt or killed, you can’t be arrested until seven days after the incident.

Transporting Gun in Texas


Guns in Vehicles

In Texas, there are no specific rules about transporting long guns (like rifles and shotguns) in cars. However, the law does say that you can’t openly carry a handgun in your car unless it’s in a holster. You also need to be at least 21 or have a license to carry a handgun.

Generally, you’re not allowed to have a gun on a vehicle that’s used to transport students or on the property of a school or other educational institution, except with written regulations or authorization from the institution. unless the place has given you written permission or has rules that allow it. But if you have a license to carry a handgun, you might be authorized to carry the handgun concealed in vehicles and parking areas at colleges and universities.

Also, employers cannot generally prohibit an employee who lawfully owns a gun or ammunition from transporting or storing it in a locked, privately owned vehicle in the employer’s parking area. This law also applies to public schools and charter schools, which can’t prevent employees from keeping guns or ammunition in their private vehicles (or vehicles they’re leasing) as long as the cars are locked, are in the school’s parking area, and the guns or ammunition aren’t visible.

As of 2011, the Department of Family and Child Services cannot restrict a foster parent from carrying a handgun in a vehicle while transporting a foster child.

Traveling with Guns

If you’re traveling with a firearm, it’s important to understand both Texas gun laws and the laws of your destination. Even though Texas is pretty relaxed about guns, other states may have stricter regulations. When flying, always check the TSA guidelines for traveling with firearms. They require that firearms be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided case, and declared at the airline check-in counter.

Read more about transporting firearms and ammunition here.


How old do you have to be to buy a gun in Texas?
In Texas, you must be at least 18 years old to purchase a rifle or shotgun, and at least 21 to purchase a handgun.

Can I carry a handgun in my car in Texas at 18?
texas gun laws require that a handgun should not be carried openly in plain view of others in the vehicle unless the individual is at least 21 years old or has a license to carry a handgun.

Is it possible to conceal carry in Texas without a permit?
As of September 2021, Texas allows permitless carry, meaning that individuals over 21 who can legally own a firearm may carry it openly or concealed without a permit.

What are the requirements for concealed carry in Texas?
Prior to the permitless carry law, Texans needed to be at least 21, pass a background check, take a training course, and demonstrate shooting proficiency to get a concealed carry license. As of 2021, Texas no longer requires an LTC for a handgun for anyone 21 or older. But there’s a requirement that handguns must be carried in a holster.

Is it legal to carry a handgun in my car in Texas without a permit?
Yes, you can carry a handgun in your car in Texas without a permit as long as it’s not in plain sight.

Can you open carry in Texas?
Yes, open carry is legal in Texas for those over 21, as long as the handgun is in a holster. However, Texans aged 18-20 can get an LTC if they are protected under certain types of protective orders or magistrate’s emergency protective orders.

Can you buy a gun at 18?
Federal law allows individuals at least 18 years old to purchase shotguns or rifles. However, to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer, you must be at least 21.

How can I obtain a gun license in Texas?
To obtain a license to carry a handgun in Texas, you previously needed to be 21, complete a training course, and pass a background check. As of September 2021, no license is required for those over 21.

Is it possible to buy a gun without a license in 2023?
According to Texas gun laws, you can buy a gun without a license. However, federal law requires licensed dealers to conduct background checks.

What are the holster requirements for open carry in Texas?
In Texas, open carry of a handgun is legal if the handgun is carried in any type of holster.

Do you have to register a gun in Texas?
No, Texas does not have a firearm registration requirement.

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