Texas has enacted generally broad, extreme laws to preempt local city and county governments and agencies from enacting or enforcing many local gun safety measures, participating in enforcement of some federal gun safety laws, or freely entering into contracts with companies that choose to refrain from doing business with certain firearm industry or trade association organizations.1
Texas has an explicit preemption law for municipalities that prohibits a municipality from adopting regulations that:
- relate to the transfer, possession, wearing, carrying, ownership, storage, transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms or ammunition, or firearm supplies or accessories; commerce in firearms or ammunition, or firearm supplies or accessories; or the discharge of a firearm at a sport shooting range; or
- require an owner of a firearm to obtain liability insurance coverage for damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of the firearm.2
Texas law authorizes the state attorney general to legal claims in the name of the state to obtain a temporary or permanent injunction against a municipality adopting a regulation in violation of this preemption law, and also authorizes the attorney general to seek to recover reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining that injunction.3
Municipalities retain the authority to:
- Require residents or public employees to be armed for personal or national defense, law enforcement or another lawful purpose4
- Regulate the discharge of firearms or air guns within the limits of the municipality, other than at a sport shooting range5
- Adopt or enforce a generally applicable zoning ordinance, land use regulation, fire code, or business ordinance6
- Regulate the use of firearms 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)7
- Regulate the carrying of a firearm, except for handguns carried in accordance with Texas’s permitless carry 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.)8 Over 25 years before permitless carry was adopted in Texas, the Attorney General 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 handgun9
- 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 consumption10
- Regulate the carrying of an air gun by a minor on public property or on private property without the consent of the property owner11
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.12 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.13 In essence, the ordinance regulated the keeping and storing of firearms by adults.14 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.15
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.16
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.17
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.18
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.
A county may not adopt or enforce regulations that:
- relate to the transfer, private ownership, keeping, transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms, ammunition, or firearm supplies or the discharge of a firearm at a sport shooting range; or
- require an owner of a firearm to obtain liability insurance coverage for damages resulting from negligent or wilful acts involving the use of the firearm.19”
A commissioners court of a county (the county legislative body) is not authorized to regulate the transfer, ownership, possession, or transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms or require an owner of a firearm to obtain liability insurance coverage for damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of the firearm.20
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
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
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.
Obstructing participation in enforcement of Federal gun safety laws
In 2021, Texas passed extreme legislation to prohibit and penalize local governments, public employees, and law enforcement for assisting in enforcement of many federal gun safety laws.25 This law generally prohibits state and local governments, agencies, and employees, as well as state and local law enforcement officers, from providing assistance to a federal agency or official with respect to enforcement of any federal statute, order, rule, or regulation that:
(1) imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation that does not exist under Texas law; and
(2) “relates to” any of the following:
(A) a registry requirement for a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition;
(B) a requirement that an owner of a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition possess a license as a condition of owning, possessing, or carrying the firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition;
(C) a requirement that a background check be conducted for the private sale or transfer of a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition;
(D) a program for confiscating a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition from a person who is not otherwise prohibited by Texas law from possessing the firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition; or
(E) a program that requires an owner of a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition to sell the firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition.
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- For the law regarding limitations on contracts with companies that “discriminate against” the firearm and ammunition industry, see 2021 TX HB 2558, enacting Tex. Gov’t Code § 2274.001, et. seq.
- Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001(a).
- Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001(f). Those “reasonable expenses” include court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, investigative costs, witness fees, and deposition costs.
- Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001(b).
- Id. Tex. Local Gov’t Code 229.001(c).
- Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *10-11.
- 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).
- 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….”
- 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.
- Id. at *2.
- Id. at *3-4.
- Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0862 (2011), 2011 Tex. AG LEXIS 33.
- Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-71 (1991), 1991 Tex. AG LEXIS 87, *10.
- 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).
- Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 236.002(a).
- Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 235.023.
- Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 235.022.
- Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 291.010(c).
- Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *11.
- Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, at *4-6.
- 2021 TX HB 2622.