By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Yes, but there are do’s and don’ts.
The Texas statute for unlawful carry of a handgun is under Penal Code 46.02. That provision makes it an offense to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” carry on or about your person a handgun.
The statute is worded in a very confusing manner — but the law specifically allows possession of a firearm on “the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control.” Tex.Pen.C. 46.02(2)(A).
And to answer the original question – the law also allows possession “inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control.” Tex.Pen.C. 46.02(2)(B).
Translation – you can have it in the car.
Limitations to Carrying a Handgun Through Texas
The handgun cannot be in plain view unless you are licensed to carry a handgun in Texas. Tex.Pen.C. 46.02(a-1)(1).
While the law allows you to have it in your vehicle – the law doesn’t allow you to carry it outside the vehicle. You probably can’t bring it to the park benches where you and your family are eating lunch as an example – and you can’t bring it inside places like gas stations or other businesses which, in all likelihood, prohibit weapons.
You can’t be engaged in criminal activity. Though this one seems obvious, we do see a number of cases where there is a DWI along with an unlawful carry case (or UCW as they are typically called here). Speeding and other traffic offenses are omitted, though.
And it goes without saying you can’t otherwise be prohibited from carrying for whatever reason.
This Law Has A History of Changes
When I was a prosecutor – the law made it illegal to have a handgun “on or about” your person. The law then provided “traveling” was a defense to UCW but that was confusing too. That just meant you’d be arrested and you could argue to a judge or jury you were “traveling.”
That law was not only confusing but also – as you might predict – otherwise responsible handgun owners would get arrested on routine stops and then they’d have to try and convince a jury the traveling defense applied when they were on their way to the Home Depot instead of Arkansas.
The new statute, while confusing, helps responsible owners avoid that fear and headache. It basically says “if it’s in your car, then we agree you’re traveling.”
But it’s not a general license to carry any and all places. That requires special permitting under Subchapter H, Chapter 411 of the Texas Government Code.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law and is designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.