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The Truth About Texas Gun Laws

Regular readers of Monderno probably know that I live in Texas, but I haven’t always lived here. We moved here three years ago because of my wife’s job, and I can honestly say that I love most things about Texas. Really there’s a lot to love – the people first and foremost, the economy which is fantastic, and the general attitude of independence and liberty are all things that make Texas a great place to live. Notice I didn’t say the gun laws.

The gun laws in Texas aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Now don’t get me wrong, they are nowhere near as abhorrent as the laws in states like California, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois, where the bath salt socialist zombies have taken hold of state politics. But there is a belief, especially outside of Texas, that Texas has very unrestrictive gun laws, and I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true. Believe me, I wish it was true.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

Open Carry

Open carry laws can best be grouped into the following categories ( categories and definitions).

Category Description
Gold Star Generally preempted open carry permitted on foot and in vehicles without a license; localities generally preempted.
Open Carry Friendly Open carry permitted by state law without license, but either lacks preemption or does not allow unlicensed open carry inside a vehicle.
Licensed Open Carry Generally preempted open carry permitted on foot and in vehicles with a license; localities generally preempted.
Non Permissive Open carry highly restricted or banned.
Rural Open Carry Open carry generally allowed in non-incorporated areas.
Indeterminate Open carry appears legal but there are serious legislative concerns that need resolution before categorization.

Texas on Open Carry

Open carry in Texas is Non Permissive – that is to say that it is not legal in any form, whether you have a concealed handgun license (CHL) or not.

Concealed Carry

Concealed Carry laws can best be grouped into the following categories.

Category Description
Constitutional Carry No permit required to carry a concealed handgun – nor should there be.
Shall Issue A permit is required in order carry a concealed handgun, but if certain criteria are met, the granting authority must issue the permit.*
May Issue A permit is required in order carry a concealed handgun. If certain criteria are met, the granting authority may issue the permit. Notice the distinction – even if you meet the criteria, there’s no guarantee that you will be issued a permit.*
Right Denied This one is pretty self-explanatory. Concealed carry is not allowed under any circumstances. At the time of writing, Illinois is the only state where the God given and constitutionally protected right to self-protection is denied.
*Can be further broken down into resident and non-resident categories.

Texas on Concealed Carry

Texas is a shall issue state, which is better than some, but nowhere near what it should be. Let me explain. I disagree with the permit process in the first place (not only is it wrong, but it’s also pointless), but if you’re going to have a permit process, it should be as easy as possible. In Texas, the permit process is anything but easy.

Getting a license is real pain, because in addition to filling out an application as you would expect, you must also take a 10 hour CHL course from a certified instructor. The course is broken down into two parts – the first part in the classroom, that ends in a written exam, the second part on the range, where you must demonstrate proficiency with your handgun.

Then forms must be filled out, fingerprints and photos taken, checks written, and then everything is bundled up and mailed in. All of which must be done is a very specific way, of course.

Want to hear the best part? You get to have all of this fun every 5 years. Contrast this with Indiana’s concealed carry permit process: fill out some forms, provide your fingerprints, pay the fees, and as long as you meet the requirements, receive a lifetime permit. In the context of the permit process – well done Indiana. Texas? Not so much.

Texas on Printing

Printing, for those of you new to concealed carry, is where the handgun is visible underneath the clothing used to conceal it. In Texas, printing is not legal.

According to Texas State Government Code, the definition of a concealed handgun is “a handgun, the presence of which is not openly discernible to the ordinary observation of a reasonable person.” Who gets to decide what is “discernible” and what is “reasonable”? Exactly. Printing is not legal.

Gun Rights Index

Another way to measure the gun laws of a given state (or country) is the Free Existence Gun Rights Index. This index is of course not perfect, but does provide a framework and scoring system to comparatively analyze the gun rights between states. Texas scores 6.8/10, coming in 30th place in the United States. Again, it could be worse, but supports my overall argument that Texas gun laws are much more restrictive than people think.

Wrapping Up

So you can’t open carry, the CHL process is a hassle, the CHL process must be repeated every five years, and printing is illegal. That about sums up my frustration. If you’re looking for states that get gun laws right, take a look at Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming, not Texas.


Texas Department of Public Safety Concealed Handgun Licensing

United States Handgun Laws

United States Open Carry Laws

USA Carry

Free Existence Gun Rights Index

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15 Responses to The Truth About Texas Gun Laws

  1. Robert Hathaway June 15, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    SO y’all have to retake the class every 5 years too? Here in NC we take the class once, do all the paperwork, fingerprints and money. Then every 5 years we just pay to renew the permit. If you forget to pay, then you have to go back through the whole process all over again.

    • Brandon June 15, 2012 at 7:51 am #

      Yeah, every five years. The renewal class is a bit shorter, but everything else is the same.

      • Robert Hathaway June 15, 2012 at 8:16 am #

        You should move to NC!

  2. Rodger June 15, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    I just renewed my CHL last week in Texas for the first time. Granted, the class was not quite as long as the first time, but the expense was still there–well over $100. There are certain laws broken if you fail to renew in time. Brandon you are right, for a state like Texas the process is ridiculous. But I am thankful that at least we can have a CHL. I am not a big fan of open carry. As in any fighting technique, the element of surprise is your best weapon.

    • Brandon June 15, 2012 at 8:34 am #

      Yes, I should have mentioned my suspicion that it’s just another form of taxation (since we don’t have state income tax). On open carry, I hear you. I’m a big fan of the OPTION to open carry though. When open carry is legal, you no longer have to worry about breaking the law if your gun accidentally shows for a brief second when you reach up on the top shelf at the grocery store.

  3. M&PFan04 June 15, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Sounds a lot like what we have in CT.

  4. Range Development Services June 16, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    So no open carry in Texas. I’m not an open carry practitioner, but that’s good to know. Do you have to go through the CHL class every five years or simply pay another tax to renew?

    • Brandon June 16, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      We have to go through the class AND pay the fees every five years.

  5. John June 22, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    Does the non permissive open carry apply to private land? I open carry when I hunt at our ranch and the state game wardens have never told me anything about the pistol in plain sight on my hip.

    • Brandon June 22, 2012 at 7:55 am #

      This is NOT legal advice, but my understanding is that private land is an exception.

      Sec. 46.02. UNLAWFUL CARRYING WEAPONS. (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun, illegal knife, or club if the person is not:
      (1) on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control

      Texas Penal Code

  6. Eric Lopez June 26, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Thanks for the info, Im getting ready to become a responsible citizen and will get my CHL soon(by then end of the year) and these are some of the doubts i had. THanks, Im in Fort Worth btw 🙂

    • Brandon June 26, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      Hello from Houston! Glad to hear you’re going to soon become responsible. 🙂

      Joking aside, our gun laws aren’t great, but though it pains me to concede this point, at least we can carry.

  7. JBeechel October 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    The myth has always been that Texas had really liberal gun laws and the reality has never met that myth (as it seldom does). I actually don’t have a problem with the class requirement to get the license (only because I never realized how much I needed to carry until I saw the people in the class). I do have a problem with the renewal classes and fees.

    I will say that I know in Florida they used similar language on printing and it has been determined that as long as the weapon is covered. Then again, the state legislature had to address the language just to clear it up and prevent any overzealous prosecutors from making an example out of someone.

    But, as a general rule, that language comes down to this example which I can never forget:
    Printing with a firearm works like wearing a pair of Speedo’s as opposed to wearing board shorts.
    Someone might be able to discern what you’re packin’, but as no one see’s it you’re legal.

    • Brandon October 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback.

      I’m not ok with the class requirement personally. I don’t think one man has the right to tell another man when he can or can’t exercise his God given right to self-defense. As far as printing goes, I hear you, but the wording of the law makes it up to interpretation, which I’m never ok with. Carrying a gun should be legal for every citizen regardless of how you carry it and regardless of how many dollars you mail to the state – Constitutional Carry. There are many states that have Constitutional Carry, sadly Texas isn’t one of them.

      The bottom line is I don’t agree with forcing people to pay an extortion fee and carry only certain ways and in certain places.

  8. Elijah Corliss October 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    at least we have the castle law that lets us carry a loaded firearm in our vehicles without a permit as long as it is concealed.