my account

Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Find answers to common questions in our searchable FAQ.

47982 views   |   153   |   Last updated on Oct 17, 2023    Criminal Law Guns

Texas law and federal law say different things. 

Texas law says no, but it contains an exception. Section 46.04 of the Texas Penal Code makes it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to possess a firearm. If more than 5 years have passed since completing their prison sentence (including parole or probation), the law allows possessing a firearm at home. 

Federal law does not contain that exception. It prohibits anyone who was convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for longer than a year from possessing any firearm. The definitions in federal law say this excludes misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment for 2 years or less. See 18 U.S. Code 922(g) and 18 U.S. Code 921(20)

What happens when state and federal law are different?

In some situations, state law and federal law may be in conflict each other. A common example of this is laws regarding cannabis. Some states have legalized cannabis use but federal law still considers it a restricted controlled substance.

The Felony Convictions & Firearms page of our Gun Laws guide links to resources that talk about owning a firearm in Texas if you have a felony conviction.

An attorney can help you learn about your legal right to own a gun if you have a criminal history. For information on finding an attorney, please see the library's Legal Help page.

What is a firearm? Are there exceptions?

Texas and federal law have specific definitions for the term "firearm." Some antique or curio firearms are exempt from both the state and federal legal definitions of a firearm. It is important to read the law carefully because the definitions are often technical.

  • Section 46.01 of the Texas Penal Code defines firearm and excludes certain antique or curio firearms.
  • 18 U.S. Code 921 defines firearm and excludes antique firearms. Several other related terms like rifle and shotgun are also defined.

See our related Legal FAQ: Can someone who has been convicted of a felony own a black powder gun?

Second Amendment lawsuits

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a court decision about gun rights in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, 142 S.Ct. 2111. The case is commonly known as Bruen or the Bruen decision.

In a 6 to 3 ruling, the Supreme Court said that people have a constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense. The court also offered a new way of interpreting the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Since the Bruen decision, people have filed lawsuits against state and federal gun laws that may place restrictions on firearms. The courts are in the process of making decisions that reflect the Bruen decision. Some laws may be found to be unconstitutional.

An attorney can help you determine what recent court decisions might mean for your legal rights. For information on finding an attorney, please see the library's Legal Help page.

Related FAQs & Guides



browse by topic