Current Gun Laws – The Basics

In light of recent events, “gun laws” and “gun law reform” have been hot topics in the news. But many people in Texas don’t know what the current gun laws are. So, let’s take a look at the current gun laws in Texas.

First, who can purchase a gun in Texas?
As a general rule, as long as someone is of age (18) and can pass a background check, they can legally buy a gun in Texas. However, you must be at least 21 to purchase a handgun.

Who may not purchase a gun in Texas?
Texas follows the federal law when it comes to who can and can’t buy a gun. The federal law states that if a person has been convicted of a felony, they cannot purchase a gun. There is however a provision in Texas that allows those that have been convicted of a felony to own a gun 5 years after they complete their sentence, but it must be kept in their home. However, this would still be in violation of Federal Law.
Other classes of people who cannot purchase guns are those that are:
-Fugitives from justice
-Unlawful users of certain depressant, narcotic, or stimulant drugs
-Those adjudicated as mental defectives or incompetents or those committed to any mental institution.
-Illegal aliens
-Citizens who have renounced their citizenship
-Those persons dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces
-Persons less than 18 years of age for the purchase of a shotgun or rifle
-Persons less than 21 years of age for the purchase of a firearm that is other than a shotgun or rifle
-Persons subject to a court order that restrains such persons from harassing, stalking, or threatening and intimate partner
-Persons convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

What is the law on “background checks”?
Anyone who is “engaged in the business” of buying and selling guns must have a Federal Firearm License (FFL) and must conduct a background check on each and every purchase – no matter where the purchase takes place: in a gun store, in a home, at a gun show, on the internet, etc. According to the ATF, someone “engaged in the business” means someone who “devotes time, attention and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms.”

These background checks are conducted by the FBI through the online system called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Since 1998, more than 28.2 million firearm background checks have been processed through this system.

If an individual simply wants to sell his/her gun that they have had in their personal collection, they are not required to obtain a license and are allowed to sell it without the burden of doing a background check. Unlicensed individuals, for a fee, may use a licensed dealer to facilitate a private transaction and ensure that the buyer passes a background check prior to the transfer.

Why do I hear in the news about a “gun show loophole”?
The media likes to use the term “gun show loophole” to imply that all guns that are sold at local gun shows are being sold without background checks. This is not true. The location of the sale has no bearing on whether or not a background check should be done. Anyone engaged in the business of buying and selling guns must be licensed, and therefore, must run background checks – even at gun shows.
However, what the media is (ineffectively) trying to refer to is the fact that an individual that is not in the business of buying and selling guns does have the right to sell a gun to someone else without a background check. These are private, unlicensed sellers that are selling part of their personal collection. These individual sales can happen at a gun show, home, or another location.

So, if I own a gun and want to sell it to someone else, I can?

Yes, provided they live in the same state. You may not sell a firearm to a resident of another state unless you first transfer the firearm to a (Federal Firearm Licensed) dealer in the purchaser’s state. You also may not ship a firearm to someone in another state. Again, you first have to ship it to a dealer with a Federal Firearm License first.

The above provides a general overview of our current gun laws.  There are places where Federal Law differs from Texas Law. Whenever you have any question, it is always best to consult with an attorney prior to purchasing or selling, or even transporting a firearm.

Call Fort Worth criminal attorney Stephen Handy today at 817-284-2263 or on his cell at 817-307-0679, if you have been arrested for any firearm or weapons offense.  He offers one-on-one personal contact with his clients and will provide a quality representation of any violation of current gun laws or other weapon offenses.

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