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Texas’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access guns, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.u003cbru003eu003cbru003e

Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Texas
Violence with Severe Bodily InjuryViolence with Bodily InjuryOther Crimes Involving Intentional Use of ForceThreats with Deadly Weapons
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
u003cstrongu003eFederal Lawu003c/strongu003eVery limited or no accessSignificant accessSignificant accessSome access
Some access
u003cstrongu003eState Lawu003c/strongu003eVery limited or no accessSignificant accessSignificant accessSome access
Some access

Texas has a hate crime sentencing enhancement statute, which generally increases the maximum sentence for violent crimes where it is proven that the perpetrator intentionally selected the victim because of bias or prejudice based on race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender or sexual preference, or by status as a peace officer or judge.1 (Ethnicity and gender identity are not expressly included as protected categories). However, this law does not reclassify any misdemeanors as felonies or otherwise make misdemeanors punishable by longer than one year.2

Texas law prohibits people from accessing firearms for five years after completing a sentence for a felony conviction; after that five-year period, Texas generally authorizes such individuals to acquire guns and possess them on their residential property.3People convicted of violent hate-motivated misdemeanors are not restricted from accessing guns for any period of time.

Federal law is somewhat broader and generally prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.4 (In Texas, misdemeanors are not punishable by more than one year,5 so hate crime offenders are generally subject to state and federal firearm restrictions only if they are convicted of felonies). 

Texas generally defines violent conduct as felonies if they result in serious bodily injury, involve assault with the use or display of a deadly weapon, or severe stalking offenses.6

However, people convicted of violent hate-motivated misdemeanors generally remain eligible to access firearms under both state and federal law, including people convicted of violently injuring or choking someone in an assault, threateningly brandishing firearms, or making credible “terroristic” threats of serious violence.7


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  1. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.47(a); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. Art. § 42.014(a). (This sentencing statute applies to offenses under Title 5 of the Penal Code, which encompasses “offenses against the person”).[]
  2. Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 12.47(a); 12.21.[]
  3. Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 46.04(a)(1); 46.04(a)(2).[]
  4. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).[]
  5. Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 12.47(a); 12.21.[]
  6. Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 22.02(b) (felony “aggravated assault”); 42.072(a) (felony “stalking”). []
  7. Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 22.01(a) (misdemeanor “assault”); 22.07(a)(2), (c) (misdemeanor “terroristic threats”); 42.07(a)(2) (misdemeanor “harassment” with threats of violence); 42.01(a)(8) (misdemeanor “disorderly conduct” for brandishing firearm). See also, 22.01(b)(2)(B) and 22.01(b-3) (assault involving choking defined as felony only in specified domestic violence incidents). Terroristic threats may be charged as a firearm-prohibiting felony instead if it is proven the defendant threatened to commit violence with intent to place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury, as opposed to an individual victim or victims. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.07(a)(5), (e).[]