Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Texas

Posted on January 1, 2012

Last Updated April 1, 2011

Municipal Authority

Texas Local Government Code Annotated § 229.001(a) provides that “[a] municipality may not adopt regulations relating to (1) the transfer, private ownership, keeping, transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms, ammunition, or firearm supplies, or (2) the discharge of a firearm at a sport shooting range.” Section 229.001(a) does not affect the authority a municipality has under another law to:

  • Require residents or public employees to be armed for personal or national defense, law enforcement, or another lawful purpose;
  • Regulate the discharge of firearms within the limits of the municipality, other than at a sport shooting range;
  • Regulate the use of property, the location of a business, or uses at a business under the municipality’s fire code, zoning ordinance, or land-use regulations as long as the code, ordinance, or regulations are not used to circumvent the intent of section 229.001(a);
  • Regulate the use of firearms in the case of an insurrection, riot, or natural disaster if the municipality finds the regulations necessary to protect public health and safety (this exception does not authorize the seizure or confiscation of firearms or ammunition from any person in lawful possession of firearms or ammunition; see section 229.001(d));
  • Regulate the carrying of a firearm by a person other than a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun under Texas law at: 1) a public park; 2) a public meeting of a municipality, county, or other governmental body; 3) a political rally, parade or official political meeting; or 4) a non-firearms-related school, college, or professional athletic event. (This exception does not apply if the firearm is in or carried to or from an area designated for use in a lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting event and the firearm is of the type commonly used in the activity.)1 The Attorney General has interpreted this exception to mean that municipalities are prohibited from regulating the carrying of concealed handguns in city parks by persons licensed to carry a handgun.2); or
  • Regulate the hours of operation of a sport shooting range, except that the hours of operation may not be more limited than the least limited hours of operation of any other business in the municipality other than a business permitted or licensed to sell or serve alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.3

Under Texas Local Government Code Annotated § 342.003(a)(8), the governing body of a municipality may prohibit or otherwise regulate the use of firearms. However, this section does not authorize a municipality to adopt any prohibition or other regulation that would violate section 229.001.4

While no case law exists that interprets these statutory preemption provisions, several state attorney general opinions provide insight into the limits of the statutes vis-à-vis local governments, and generally discuss local regulatory authority. For example, the Texas Attorney General has opined that the provisions of a Houston ordinance directed at preventing the discharge of firearms by children did not run afoul of the state firearms preemption statute, Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code Ann. § 215.001 (now section 229.001).5 The Houston ordinance not only prohibited the discharge of firearms by minors, but prohibited an adult from facilitating or permitting the discharge or physical possession of a firearm by allowing a child to obtain unsupervised access to a firearm.6 In essence, the ordinance also regulated the keeping and storing of firearms by adults.7 The Attorney General determined that on its face and as a matter of law the ordinance did not violate section 215.001 (now section 229.001) because home rule cities, like Houston, possess broad powers of self-government; section 215.001(b)(2) (now section 229.001(b)(2)) grants them authority to regulate the discharge of firearms within their limits; and the object of Houston’s ordinance was to regulate that specific area.8

More recently, the Attorney General has opined that certain municipalities may adopt and enforce ordinances prohibiting the discharge of certain firearms or other weapons on property located within their original corporate limits.9

The Attorney General has also opined that municipal housing authorities are subject to section 229.001(b)(2) (former section 215.001), and that this statute precludes those authorities from adopting a regulation providing for a tenant’s eviction for the otherwise legal possession of a firearm.10

Other attorney general opinions may have been superseded by subsequent amendments to state law. Texas law generally prohibits concealed handgun license holders from carrying handguns on property where the owner or lessee has provided notice that concealed handguns are prohibited.11 In 2001, the Attorney General concluded, based on section 30.06, that a local government may bar a concealed handgun license holder from carrying a handgun onto its property by providing individual verbal notice to the licensee or by erecting a sign or via other written communication.12 However, subsection 30.06(e), which became effective September 1, 2003, provides an exception to section 30.06 for property owned or leased by a governmental entity. For additional information on this topic, see the Texas Other Location Restrictions section.

Texas Local Government Code Annotated § 250.001 limits the ability of a governmental official to enforce a municipal ordinance, order or rule regulating noise against a sport shooting range. See the Texas Immunity Statutes section for further information.

County Authority

Texas Local Government Code Annotated § 236.002, adopted in 2011, provides that “a county may not adopt regulations relating to: (1) the transfer, private ownership, keeping, transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms, ammunition, or firearm supplies; or (2) the discharge of a firearm at a sport shooting range.”

Under Texas Local Government Code Annotated § 235.023, a commissioners court of a county (the county legislative body) is not authorized to regulate the transfer, ownership, possession, or transportation of firearms or require the registration of firearms.

However, Texas law permits the commissioners courts, in the interest of public safety, to prohibit or otherwise regulate the discharge of firearms on lots that are “10 acres or smaller and are located in the unincorporated area of the county in a subdivision.”13

In addition, in any county building that houses a justice court, county court, county court at law, or district court, or in any office used by these courts, any person who possesses a firearm without the court’s written authorization, or without complying with any written regulation of the court, is subject to criminal liability.14

The Texas Attorney General has opined that governing bodies of counties may prohibit concealed handgun license holders from carrying concealed handguns in parks under county jurisdiction.15 The Attorney General found that no state law limits a county’s police power over parks per Texas Local Government Code Annotated § 331.007. The Attorney General did not mention section 235.023 in the opinion. The Attorney General also opined that a similar analysis applies to a rapid transit authority’s power to prohibit concealed handgun licensees from carrying handguns while on a vehicle used by the authority to provide public transportation.16

Texas Local Government Code Annotated § 250.001 also limits the ability of a governmental official to enforce a county ordinance, order or rule regulating noise against a sport shooting range. See the Texas Immunity Statutes section for further information.

  1. Section 229.001(c). []
  2. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *10-11 []
  3. Section 229.001(b). See also section 229.004 (limiting certain municipalities’ authority to regulate the discharge of certain weapons in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the municipalities and newly annexed areas). []
  4. Section 342.003(b). []
  5. See Texas Ltr. Op. Att’y Gen. 94-56 (1994), 1994 Tex. AG LEXIS 13. []
  6. Id. at *2. []
  7. Id. []
  8. Id. at *3-4. []
  9. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0862 (2011), 2011 Tex. AG LEXIS 33. []
  10. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-71 (1991), 1991 Tex. AG LEXIS 87, *10. []
  11. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 30.06. []
  12. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. JC-0325 (2001), 2001 Tex. AG LEXIS 6, *11. []
  13. Section 235.022. []
  14. Section 291.010(c). []
  15. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *11. []
  16. Id. at *4-6. []