By: Mark Diaz
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Has There Been An Increase In Gun Violence With Open Carry Laws?
Texas required gun permits for many years for residents to carry open or concealed firearms. This law was changed recently, and the state has had ‘open carry’ or ‘constitutional carry’ policy for more than a year, meaning that you do not need a permit to carry an open or concealed firearm if you are 21 or over. While gun enthusiasts welcomed the new law, many argue that the new, more liberal gun laws make gun violence more common.
This blog post discusses Texas gun laws and whether there has been more gun violence with Texas’ open carry laws. Whether there is more gun violence or not, there is no doubt you face a serious situation if you were recently charged with a gun crime. You should retain a Galveston County criminal defense attorney at Mark Diaz & Associates by calling (409) 407-4784.
Table of Contents
Who Can Purchase And Carry Guns in Texas?
In 2021, Texas became one of 25 states that has an open carry law, meaning that there is no permit or registration required to carry a firearm open or concealed. To carry a handgun legally without a license, either open or concealed, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 21 (however, a recent court decision could allow those between 18 and 20 to carry)
- Not have a previous felony conviction as noted in Section 46.04
- Not have a recent conviction for certain misdemeanors
- Not have an unexpired protective order against them
- Not be restricted from carrying a gun under federal law
- Not be under the influence
Those who carry a handgun in public partially or entirely visible, must have it in a holster. Before the law was changed to open carry in 2021, the law stated that people must have a license to carry a handgun and have it in a belt or shoulder holster.
While the new law allows many people to carry guns without permits, citizens cannot carry firearms everywhere. The law states that firearms are still restricted in correctional facilities, schools, secured parts of airports, and other areas listed in HB 1927.
Also, private businesses and private property owners may restrict firearms. Texas law allows property owners to decide if they will allow guns. If guns are banned, this should be indicated with a sign or similar notice.
The new open carry law did not do away with the concealed carry permit program. Texans who want to get a license can still do so. This could be beneficial because the permit could be used to carry open or concealed in states that have a reciprocity agreement with Texas.
Are Texas Gun Laws Leading To More Gun Violence?
Opinions are mixed in the state and nationwide on whether the open carry law has worsened gun violence and other crimes. For example, the Harvard Law and Policy Review recently found that carrying firearms in open view is not a deterrent to the increase in gun crimes. The study found no evidence that increasing access to guns has a positive effect on crime rates or crime incidents.
The study took pro-gun advocates to task for frequent claims that more guns mean less crime. It also cited a National Institutes of Health study from 2013 that examined violent gun crime rates over 30 years, finding a correlation between gun ownership and gun violence.
On the other hand, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has claimed many times in recent years that there are fewer crimes in places where guns are carried. He pointed to a study that allegedly showed that where states have an open carry law, crime has decreased by 25%. Patrick said the crime rates that fell included murders.
Conflicting Gun Violence Studies
However, an article in PolitiFact recently looked at conflicting gun violence studies and whether the presence of more guns means less crime. The website referred to a gun crime study by Texas A&M, which examined crime rates in Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania beginning in 1998. These were the only stats with 10 years of data after passing concealed carry laws.
All states in the study saw more carry permits because of law changes. However, trends in crimes varied by state. For instance, rape and burglary crimes fell in all four from 1998 to 2010. Murders also fell in Michigan and Texas in that period. But aggravated assault, larceny, and robbery increased in Pennsylvania and Michigan, and murders rose in Pennsylvania and Florida.
There are other signs in Texas that the open carry law in the state has not led to a particular increase in gun crime. Still, there are worries that various jurisdictions treat the open carry law inconsistently, which could cause certain parties to be unfairly charged with gun crimes. If you were arrested for carrying a firearm and you think you were within the law, you should retain Mr. Diaz as your Galveston County criminal defense attorney today.
Texas Gun Crime Laws And Charges
Texas is regarded as a pro-gun state, but there are many gun laws that, if violated, can land you in hot water. Some of the most common gun charges in the state include:
Unlawful Firearm Possession
Texas Penal Code Section 46.04 states that it is illegal to own a gun if you were convicted of a felony and have not been out of prison or community supervision for at least five years. Be cautious, however, after five years you may only possess a firearm in your own home, NOT in public or in a vehicle.
You also cannot own a gun if you have a restraining or protective order against you or were convicted of domestic violence. This is usually a Class A misdemeanor, but possession by a felon can be a third-degree felony.
Unlawful Possession In A Gun-Free Zone
Despite the state’s new open carry law, it is usually illegal to carry a gun in a school, school buses, government agencies, election polling stations, and places where there are school activities. Violating this law is a third-degree felony.
Illegal Discharge Of A Firearm
A gun should only be fired in a legal circumstance. For example, it is usually legal to discharge a firearm on a gun range, in self-defense, or while hunting. However, firing a gun outside these circumstances could result in a gun charge. For example, if you fire a weapon in a residential neighborhood, it may be charged as a crime. It also is illegal to point a firearm at another person unless you are in imminent danger.
Illegal Gun Sales And Transfer
You are guilty of this offense if a gun is sold or given to someone who plans to use it illegally. The law also makes it illegal to sell guns to those under 18, anyone who is intoxicated, or most convicted felons. Transferring a weapon illegally is usually a Class A misdemeanor but can be a state jail felony if it is a handgun.
Texas Gun Crime Defenses
Texas gun laws are generally less restrictive than many states. But if you are convicted of a gun crime, you face severe penalties, including a potentially long jail or prison sentence. But, with the help of Mark Diaz & Associates, you can build a strong defense to the gun crime charge, including these popular defenses:
Self-defense is justified to protect yourself against another person’s illegal use of force. You also are allowed under Texas law to use justifiable force to defend others and to protect property.
Lack Of Intent To Carry
This is a potential argument against reckless or unlawful carry charges, especially if you are charged with carrying a firearm into a restricted area, such as a school. Your attorney could argue that you did not intend to carry the gun into the restricted area, potentially forgetting that you had it.
This can be a strong defense if your possession, purchase, or carry was within state law. With the recent changes to a constitutional carry system without permits, it is common for gun charges to be filed against people who did not break the law. Unfortunately, there are cases where the law may be enforced incorrectly in some jurisdictions.
Lack Of Evidence
This defense means there is insufficient evidence and a lack of proof that the person committed a gun crime.
Illegal Search And Seizure
If the police search you or your vehicle without probable cause, your attorney may argue that the evidence should be suppressed, possibly throwing the case out.
Steps If You Are Arrested On A Gun Charge
After a gun charge and arrest, your actions and words can significantly influence the case outcome. First, you should always cooperate with the police and never resist arrest. Second, always exercise your right to remain silent because anything you say will likely be twisted and used against you. You should also contact Mr. Diaz as soon as possible to represent you. But if you do not have an attorney when you are arraigned, always plead not guilty.
Contact Our Galveston County Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz
Gun charges in Texas are serious, and with the new open carry, no permit law, you could be unfairly charged. If you are accused of a gun crime, our Galveston County criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz will offer the best defense possible. You can talk to Mr. Diaz today about your case by calling (409) 407-4784. Mr. Diaz has fought passionately for his clients’ rights for years and will work tirelessly on your behalf.