Municipal Authority

Texas law broadly preempts municipalities from regulating firearms, including:  “(1) the transfer, private ownership, keeping, transportation, licensing, or registration of firearms, air guns, ammunition, or firearm or air gun supplies; or (2) the discharge of a firearm or air gun at a sport shooting range.”1 Municipalities retain the authority 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 or air guns 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 the preemption statute;
  • Regulate the use of firearms or air guns 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;
  • Regulate the carrying of a firearm or air gun 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.)2 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;3
  • 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;4 or
  • Regulate the carrying of an air gun by a minor on public property or on private property without the consent of the property owner.5

While there are no cases interpreting these statutory preemption provisions, the Texas Attorney General has issued a formal opinion that a Houston ordinance which was aimed at preventing children from discharging firearms was not preempted.6 The Houston ordinance also prohibited an adult from facilitating or permitting the discharge or possession of a firearm by allowing a child to obtain unsupervised access to a firearm.7 In essence, the ordinance regulated the keeping and storing of firearms by adults.8 The Attorney General determined that the ordinance did not violate the preemption statute because home rule cities like Houston possess broad powers of self-government. The preemption statute 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.9

More recently, the Attorney General issued an opinion that certain municipalities may prohibit the discharge of certain firearms or other weapons on property located within their original corporate limits.10

The Attorney General also issued an opinion that municipal housing authorities are subject to the preemption statute 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.11

In 2015, the legislature prohibited an agency or political subdivision from excluding from government property a concealed handgun license holder carrying a gun unless firearms are prohibited on the premises by state law.12 Moreover, the 2015 law allows individuals who believe they have been harmed by a local government violation of the state’s preemption statute to file a complaint of violation with the Texas attorney general, who may file suit against the agency or political subdivision13 to collect civil penalties14 and expenses, including attorney fees.15

Texas also limits the ability of a governmental official to enforce a municipal ordinance, order or rule regulating noise against a sport shooting range.16 See the Texas Immunity Statutes section for further information.

County Authority

Counties are also preempted from regulating: (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.17

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.18

However, Texas permits the commissioners courts to 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.”19

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.20

The Texas Attorney General has issued an opinion that counties may prohibit concealed handgun license holders from carrying concealed handguns in county parks,21  and that a rapid transit authority may prohibit concealed handgun licensees from carrying handguns while on public transportation.22

Texas also limits county regulation of noise associated with a sport shooting range.23 See the Texas Immunity Statutes section for further information.

Notes
  1. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001(a). ⤴︎
  2. Tex. Local Gov’t Code 229.001(c). ⤴︎
  3. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *10-11. ⤴︎
  4. Tex. Local Gov’t Code 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). ⤴︎
  5. See also, Tex. Local Gov’t Code §§ 342.003(a)(8), 342.003(b) (under Fire Regulations statute, subject to preemption restrictions (Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 229.001), a municipality may “prohibit or otherwise regulate the use of fireworks and firearms….” ⤴︎
  6. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 215.001 (now section 229.001); Texas Ltr. Op. Att’y Gen. 94-56 (1994), 1994 Tex. AG LEXIS 13. ⤴︎
  7. Id. at *2. ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎
  9. Id. at *3-4. ⤴︎
  10. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0862 (2011), 2011 Tex. AG LEXIS 33. ⤴︎
  11. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-71 (1991), 1991 Tex. AG LEXIS 87, *10. ⤴︎
  12. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(a); see, 2015 Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. KP-0049 (Texas Attorney General found that section 411.209 would prevent a governmental entity from prohibiting handguns from a place where handguns may be lawfully carried “through oral or written notice that does not conform” to statutory language). ⤴︎
  13. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(d)-(f). ⤴︎
  14. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(b) (civil penalties of $1,000-$1,500 for the first violation, $10,000-$10,500 for the second violation), (c) (“Each day of a continuing violation … constitutes a separate violation”). ⤴︎
  15. Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.209(g) (also, “court costs …, investigative costs, witness fees, and deposition costs”). ⤴︎
  16. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 250.001. ⤴︎
  17. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 236.002. ⤴︎
  18. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 235.023. ⤴︎
  19. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 235.022. ⤴︎
  20. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 291.010(c). ⤴︎
  21. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, *11; Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 331.007. ⤴︎
  22. Tex. Op. Att’y Gen. DM-364 (1995), 1995 Tex. AG LEXIS 94, at *4-6. ⤴︎
  23. Tex. Local Gov’t Code § 250.001. ⤴︎