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permitless public carry

In 2021, Texas enacted dangerous ‘permitless carry’ legislation that, effective September 1, 2021, generally authorizes people to carry concealed or holstered handguns in most public spaces without any license, safety training, or background check required, as long as they are at least 21 years old and not prohibited from possessing firearms under Texas’s weak firearm prohibitions law.1 A narrow but notable exception is that people who have been convicted of any of four specified violent misdemeanors are not authorized to carry handguns in public for five years after the date that they committed that offense, except when on their own property or when they are inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that they own or control.2

Prior to this law’s passage, Texas law required people to complete a basic safety training course and pass a background check in order to obtain a handgun license from the Texas Department of Public Safety, which authorized them to carry concealed handguns in most public places. Texas law still authorizes people to apply for and obtain these licenses (see below for more information about the licensing process), which may be required, for instance, for people to legally carry handguns in public in certain locations in Texas or when visiting other states.

Certain location restrictions apply, however, that generally restrict people from carrying handguns in certain types of public locations, including K-12 schools and certain colleges and universities.3 In some cases, like K-12 schools, firearms are generally prohibited regardless of whether a person has a handgun carry license; in other cases, like most public areas on public college and university campuses, people with a valid handgun carry license may generally carry concealed or holstered handguns, but people without these licenses may not.

Process for obtaining CCW licenses

Texas is a “shall-issue” state, meaning that the Department of Public Safety must generally issue a license to carry a handgun if the applicant meets specified qualifications.4 Texas law provides that a person is eligible for a license to carry a handgun if the person:5

  • Is a legal resident of Texas for the six-month period preceding the date of the application or meets the special eligibility requirements for legal residents of other states that do not issue licenses to carry handguns;6
  • Is at least 21 years of age;7
  • Is fully qualified under applicable federal and state law to purchase a handgun (see the section entitled Firearm Prohibitions in Texas);
  • Has not been convicted8 of a felony;
  • Has not been convicted9 in the 5 years preceding the date of application of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor, or of a disorderly conduct offense;
  • Has not been convicted10 two or more times within the past 10-year period of an offense of the grade of Class B misdemeanor or greater that involves the use of alcohol or a controlled substance as a statutory element of the offense;
  • Is not charged with the commission of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or disorderly conduct, or of a felony under an information or indictment;
  • Is not a fugitive from justice for a felony or a Class A or Class B misdemeanor;
  • Is not a “chemically dependent person”;
  • Is not currently restricted under a court protective order or subject to a restraining order “affecting the spousal relationship,” other than a restraining order solely affecting property interests;
  • Is not incapable of exercising sound judgment with respect to the proper use and storage of a handgun. (This term is defined narrowly to refer to people who:
    • Have been diagnosed by a licensed physician as suffering from a psychiatric disorder or condition that causes or is likely to cause substantial impairment in judgment, mood, perception, impulse control, or intellectual ability;11
    • Suffer from a diagnosed psychiatric disorder or condition (as described above) that is either in remission but reasonably likely to redevelop at a future time, or requires continuous medical treatment to avoid redevelopment;
    • Have been diagnosed by a licensed physician or declared by a court to be incompetent to manage their own affairs;
    • Have entered in a criminal proceeding a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.12.))
  • Has not been “finally determined” to be delinquent in making a child support payment administered or collected by the attorney general;
  • Has not been “finally determined” to be delinquent in the payment of a tax or other money collected by the comptroller, the tax collector of a political subdivision of the state, or any agency or subdivision of the state;
  • Has not, in the past 10 years, been adjudicated as having engaged in delinquent conduct constituting a felony;
  • Has not made any material misrepresentation, or failed to disclose any material fact, in an application for a license to carry a concealed handgun.

Texas law provides that the local designee of the Department of Public Safety must conduct an additional background check (in addition to the initial background check conducted by the Department) on the applicant using local official records to verify the accuracy of application materials.13

Firearm Safety Training

Texas requires applicants for handgun licenses to obtain evidence of handgun proficiency as a prerequisite to obtaining a license.14

The Texas Department of Public Safety is required to develop a course in handgun proficiency.15 A person must successfully complete both classroom and range instruction components of a handgun proficiency course to complete the course, although a 2017 law now allows individuals to take the classroom portion through approved online course providers.16 Only qualified handgun instructors may administer handgun proficiency courses.17

The handgun proficiency course must include between 4 and 6 hours of classroom or online instruction on:

  • Laws that relate to weapons and to the use of deadly force;
  • Handgun use and safety, including use of restraint holsters and methods to ensure the secure carrying of openly carried handguns;
  • Non-violent dispute resolution; and
  • Proper storage practices for handguns, including storage practices that eliminate the possibility of accidental injury to a child..18

The range instruction part of the course must include an actual demonstration by the applicant of the applicant’s ability to safely and proficiently use the applicable category of handgun.19 An applicant may not be certified unless he or she demonstrates, at a minimum, the degree of proficiency that is required to effectively operate a handgun.20

The proficiency examination must also include a written (or online portal) test concerning the subjects listed above, as well as the physical demonstration of proficiency in the use and safety procedures of one or more handguns and in handgun safety procedures.21

A handgun instructor may submit to the Department a written recommendation for disapproval of the application for a license, accompanied by an affidavit stating the facts that lead the instructor to believe that an applicant does not possess the required handgun proficiency. The Department may use this written recommendation as the basis for denial of a license only if the Department determines that the recommendation is made in good faith and is supported by a preponderance of the evidence.22

Duration & Renewal

Once issued, a Texas handgun license expires “on the first birthday of the license holder occurring after the fourth anniversary of the date of issuance.”23 A renewed license expires on the license holder’s birthday, five years after the date of the expiration of the previous license.24

To renew a license, a license holder must submit additional application materials and an application fee to the Department, including a signed form acknowledging receipt of information regarding state law on the use of deadly force and the places where it is unlawful for a license holder to carry a handgun.25

Disclosure or Use of Information

Texas law requires the Department to disclose to any criminal justice agency information contained in its files and records regarding whether a specific individual is licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Texas.26 The Department must notify a license holder of any request that is made for information relating to the license holder and provide the name of the agency making the request.27

Generally, all other records are confidential and are not subject to mandatory disclosure, except that the applicant or license holder may be furnished a copy of disclosable records on request and the payment of a reasonable fee.28

Texas law requires the Department to make a monthly statistical report that includes the number of licenses issued, denied, suspended, or revoked by the Department during the preceding month, “listed by age, gender, race and zip code of the applicant or license holder.” This report is available on request and payment of a reasonable fee.29

On request of a local law enforcement agency, the Department shall notify the agency of the licenses that have been issued to license holders who reside in the county in which the agency is located.30 The Department is required to report annually on its website statistics related to incidents in which a person licensed to carry a handgun is convicted of certain offenses.31

Reciprocity

Texas law requires the Governor of Texas to negotiate agreements with other states that issue handgun licenses so that Texas may recognize such licenses.32 The Governor must also issue a proclamation that licenses issued by another state are recognized in Texas, if the Texas Attorney General determines that state or local authorities or an agent of the state or local authorities initiates a background check of each applicant for a license issued by that state before the license is issued, to determine the applicant’s eligibility to possess a firearm under federal law.33 The Attorney General is required to make this determination annually for each state, and determine what changes to the statutes of all other states are necessary for Texas to recognize those states’ licenses.34

The states with which Texas has established handgun license reciprocity agreements are listed on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Concealed Handgun License Reciprocity page. That page also lists each proclamation made by the Governor to the effect that licenses issued by another state are recognized in Texas.

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  1. See 2021 TX HB 1927; Tex. Penal Code § 46.02(a), (a-5), (a-7).[]
  2. Those misdemeanors include assault involving bodily injury, ‘terroristic threats,’ “deadly conduct” that places another person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury, and certain disorderly conduct crimes involving illegal discharge of a firearm or illegal display of a firearm in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm. Tex. Penal Code § 46.02(a)(2)(B).[]
  3. See, e.g., Tex. Penal Code § 46.03.[]
  4. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.177.[]
  5. Eligibility requirements are provided in Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.172.[]
  6. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.173(a) requires the Department of Public Safety to establish a procedure for a person who meets the eligibility requirements for a license to carry a handgun other than the residency requirement established by section 411.172(a)(1) to obtain a license. This procedure applies if the person is a legal resident of another state or if the person relocates to this state with the intent to establish residency in this state. Id. The procedure includes payment of a fee in an amount sufficient to recover the average cost to the Department of obtaining a criminal history record check and investigation on a nonresident applicant. Id. See the Reciprocity subsection below for further information.[]
  7. Texas passed legislation in 2021 that also makes people aged 18-21 eligible for a license to carry a handgun if they are protected under certain active domestic violence-related protective orders, even if they are not old enough to purchase a handgun under federal law. See 2021 TX HB 918; Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 411.172(i); 411.1735.[]
  8. A person is not “convicted” if an order of deferred adjudication was entered against the person more than 10 years prior to the application unless the order of deferred adjudication was entered for a felony “offense against a person, ” a robbery, or a first or second degree burglary. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.1711.[]
  9. See Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.1711 regarding exceptions to the term “convicted.”[]
  10. See Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.1711 regarding exceptions to the term “convicted.[]
  11. The following constitute evidence of a psychiatric disorder or condition likely to cause substantial impairment in judgment, mood, perception, impulse control, or intellectual ability: involuntary psychiatric hospitalization in the preceding five-year period; psychiatric hospitalization in the preceding two-year period; inpatient or residential substance abuse treatment in the preceding five-year period; diagnosis in the preceding five-year period by a licensed physician that the person is dependent on alcohol, a controlled substance, or a similar substance; or diagnosis at any time by a licensed physician relating to schizophrenia or delusional disorder, bipolar disorder, chronic dementia (whether caused by illness, brain defect, or brain injury), dissociative identity disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, or antisocial personality disorder. Section 411.172(e).[]
  12. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.172(d) – (f[]
  13. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.176. Additional application and background check requirements are detailed under Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 411.174 through 411.180, and 411.196. For circumstances in which a license may be revoked, see Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.186. For situations where a license may be suspended, see Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.187.[]
  14. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.174(a)(7).[]
  15. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.188(a).[]
  16. Id.; 2017 TX HB 3784.[]
  17. Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 411.188(b), 411.190.[]
  18. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.188(b).[]
  19. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.188(a).[]
  20. Id.[]
  21. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.188(d), (d-1), (e).[]
  22. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.188(k).[]
  23. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.183(a).[]
  24. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.183(b).[]
  25. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.185.[]
  26. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.192(a). Information on an individual subject to disclosure includes the individual’s name, date of birth, gender, race, and zip code. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.192(a).[]
  27. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.192(c).[]
  28. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.192(a), (b).[]
  29. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.193.[]
  30. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.178.[]
  31. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.047.[]
  32. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.173.[]
  33. Id.[]
  34. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.173(c).[]