Can I have a gun in my car in Texas?

Post updated on October 24, 2015

Yes. BUT not like in the picture above!

The Texas Motorist Protection Act (HB 1815), effective as of September 1, 2007, permits any law-abiding Texas resident the legal right to carry a handgun inside their motor vehicle in Texas without a CHL (Concealed Handgun License) or any other permit. As long as you are legally permitted to own a firearm and the vehicle belongs to you, then the answer is yes; you may have a gun, loaded or unloaded, in your vehicle in the state of Texas.

But…

We know. There is always a “but”. Nothing is ever that easy when dealing with criminal law. However, the law is pretty clear and not too hard to grasp. Lawful carry of a gun while in a vehicle in Texas only requires the following four qualifiers:

  • The handgun must NOT be in plain view; it must be concealed.
  • You are NOT engaged in criminal activity (excluding Class C traffic misdemeanors). If you are, then you have bigger problems to worry about!
  • Federal law does NOT prohibit you from possessing a firearm. (See end of article for more details)
  • You are NOT a member of a criminal gang.

Learn about Texas Open Carry Laws

Concealed from view?

The “plain view” provision is not location-specific; in other words the gun doesn’t have to be in the glove compartment, a case, or anywhere else in particular, it just has to be hidden from view. The gun owner, even without a CHL, is free to wear it in a holster as long as he/she stays within the vehicle.

What about when I’m not in the vehicle?

If you don’t possess a CHL, then you may not legally carry the handgun outside a motor vehicle if you are not “directly en route” between the vehicle and your own property. This means you cannot carry your gun into places like rest stops, gas stations, convenience stores, and other places where a motorist might typically stop. You must leave the firearm concealed and secured in your car.

How about long guns?

can you carry a rifle in your car in Texas? If you’ve done any serious amount of driving around Texas, surely you have noticed lots of trucks with gun racks. Long guns (rifles / shotguns) DO NOT have to be concealed inside a vehicle and may be loaded and within reach. So, you may proudly display your rifle or shotgun in a gun-rack or just leave it on your seat. Obviously, a gun out in the open is likely to make police uneasy. So, don’t be surprised if a normal traffic stops gets tense really quickly if you have a your gun in plain view.

Federal prohibitions:

* Federal law prohibits the following nine categories of persons from possessing firearms and ammunition:

  • Persons convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year (unless gun rights were restored) – also, persons charged with felonies are also prohibited from possessing firearms;
  • Fugitives from justice;
  • Persons addicted to or who use controlled substances;
  • Persons who have been adjudicated as mental defectives, or who have been committed to a mental institution (unless gun rights were restored);
  • Illegal aliens or persons with nonimmigrant visas;
  • Persons dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces;
  • Persons who renounced their U.S. citizenship;
  • Persons subject to protective orders and certain other domestic court orders; and
  • Persons who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.

But the Federal Government is also from where the right to bear arms stems. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is the basis of our American gun rights. Specifically, federal courts have made owning guns an individual right.

For brevity sake, there are many other legal and technical details that we will not cover here. If you have any questions or concerns about the Texas Motorist Protection Act or about any other weapons crimes in Texas, you should err on the side of caution. Give one of our defense attorneys at Cofer Law a call to discuss your legal rights with regards to carrying a gun in a vehicle in Texas.