As noted in the statistics discussed in the state law summary, Texas plays a major role in firearms trafficking. Texas’s uniquely weak laws against gun trafficking have made the state a leading source of guns trafficked into other states and across the southern border into Mexico and Central America, where guns purchased in Texas have been fueling deadly violence and record murder rates. A 2016 GAO report on gun trafficking indicated that at least 70% of crime guns recovered and traced by law enforcement in Mexico were traced to gun sellers in the U.S., and that among the 50 states, Texas was by far the leading source of weapons trafficked into Mexico—more than nearly every other state combined.
Texas does have some, relatively weak laws intended to deter and penalize firearm trafficking. For instance, Texas law prohibits “firearm smuggling,” which is defined as knowingly engaging in the business of transporting or transferring a firearm that the person knows was acquired in violation of Texas or federal law. For purposes of this law, a person is considered to be engaged in the business of transporting or transferring a firearm if the person engages in the conduct on more than one occasion, or for profit or other remuneration.1
Texas law also makes it an offense if, with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a “combination” (defined as three or more persons who collaborate in criminal activities2 ) or in the profits of a combination or as a member of a criminal street gang, a person commits or conspires to commit unlawful manufacture, transportation, repair, or sale of firearms.3
Texas law also states that a person commits a Class A misdemeanor if he or she:
- Sells, rents, leases, loans, or gives a handgun to any person knowing that the person to whom the handgun is to be delivered intends to use it unlawfully or in the commission of an unlawful act;
- Intentionally or knowingly sells, rents, leases, or gives or offers to sell, rent, lease, or give a firearm to any child younger than age 18. It is an affirmative defense to this charge that the transfer was to a minor whose parent or legal custodian had given written permission for the sale or, if the transfer was other than a sale, the parent or legal custodian had given effective consent. This offense rises to the level of a “state jail felony” (the lowest class of felony under state law) if the firearm involved is a handgun;
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly sells a firearm or ammunition to any person who is intoxicated;
- Knowingly sells a firearm or ammunition to any person who has been convicted of a felony before the fifth anniversary of the later of: 1) the person’s release from confinement following conviction of the felony; or 2) the person’s release from supervision under community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision following conviction of the felony;
- Sells, rents, leases, loans, or gives a handgun to any person knowing that an active protective order is directed to the person to whom the handgun is to be delivered; or
- Knowingly purchases, rents, leases, or receives as a loan or gift a handgun while an active protective order is directed to the person.4
Finally, legislation enacted in 2021 makes it unlawful (effective September 1, 2021) for a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law to knowingly make a material false statement on a form required to be submitted to a licensed gun dealer (such as the ATF form 4473 purchasers complete in connection with a NICS background check when purchasing firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer).5
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- Tex. Penal Code § 46.14(a).
- Tex. Penal Code § 71.01(a).
- Tex. Penal Code § 71.02(a)(4).
- Tex. Penal Code § 46.06(a).
- See 2021 TX SB 162; Tex. Penal Code § 46.06(a)(7).