Own a gun in Texas? Here’s what you should know about constitutional carry.

Constitutional carry law circumvents previously required handgun training

Handgun near mug. (Kelly L, Pexels)

SAN ANTONIO – Record-breaking gun sales during the pandemic combined with multiple Texas law changes regarding firearms have led to some confusion about what’s legal and what isn’t in terms of firearms.

According to FBI statistics, there have been more firearm background checks in 2020 and 2021 than any other year in history. So far this year, there have been nearly 1.8 million background checks initiated for firearm sales in Texas. Only Illinois and Kentucky have more.

During this surge in gun sales, Gov. Greg Abbott also signed seven pieces of legislation related to firearms that went into effect on Sept. 1.

The most sweeping piece of new legislation, referred to as constitutional carry or permitless carry, removed the requirement for a license in order to carry a handgun in Texas.

Removing the requirement of a state-issued license also removed the required training that was part of the process to get a license.

“Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session,” Abbott said in June.

KSAT spoke with the owners of Top Shot Concealed Handgun Training and got feedback on the new laws, including some clarification about what is and isn’t legal in terms of firearm use in Texas.

“We are strong supporters of the Second Amendment but feel permit less carry needs to be revisited. With no training mandated, a person can carry a handgun without knowledge of the legal aspects involved and no training in the handgun they will be carrying,” said Top Shot lead instructor Kevin Saxon. “This can be dangerous to those carrying and those around them.”

Saxon is a retired Texas master peace officer with 38 years of experience in teaching handgun use and instruction and he co-owns the business with his wife Michelle Saxon. Both are members of the National Rifle Association and LTC holders.

“You can open carry and conceal carry with both the LTC and permitless carry,” said Saxon.

An LTC holder cannot carry a weapon into an establishment with a 30.06 sign, which prohibits concealed carry per the Texas Penal Code. However, an LTC holder can conceal carry in an establishment with a 30.07 sign, which only prohibits open carry.

A permitless carry person cannot carry in an establishment that displays the above-mentioned 30.06, 30.07, or a 30.05, which prohibits unlicensed persons to carry a firearm, according to Saxon.

KSAT published an article in June that includes a list of public places firearms are not allowed, even under constitutional carry, unless you are a licensed peace officer.

“Handgun owners need to know where and when they can carry and when they are legally authorized to use deadly force,” Saxon said. “Deadly force is only justified in an occupied habitation, an occupied motor vehicle, your place of business or employment, to protect yourself (self-defense), to defend a third person, or to protect your property under specific circumstances.”

He specifically mentioned that the use of deadly force is not allowed when someone has broken into an unoccupied vehicle.

“The laws are complex and specific as to where you can carry and what authority you have to defend yourself and others as well as your property. Circumventing these laws can lead to your arrest and prosecution,” Saxon said. “People also need to know how to conduct themselves while being stopped by the police. Guns must be concealed or in a belt or shoulder holster while in your vehicle.”

LTC holders take a 4-6 hour course that covers state gun laws and includes light firearm training in order to obtain their license. They are also allowed to carry a handgun in 37 other states under the reciprocity agreement.

“For those choosing the permitless carry route, we strongly recommend that people attend two classes, one to understand the laws governing weapons, and the other to learn how to properly operate the handgun you will be carrying,” said Michelle Saxon.

LTC applications range in price from free to $40, depending on eligibility.

There are also laws in Texas that cover firearm storage. For example, if anyone under age 17 lives in your home, your weapon must be secured by a lock that prevents that child from gaining access to the firearm.

“Knowledge and training is paramount to protect yourself and loved ones within the guidelines of the law. If you do not wish to get your LTC, then educating yourself is paramount,” said Michelle.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.