Under Texas law, it is illegal to carry a firearm onto school premises or on the grounds where a school-sponsored activity is being conducted. The law defines the words “school premises” to only include a building or portion of a building. This does not include the sidewalks, fields, and parking lots around the school. This means that an LTC holder can carry around the school, just not into the school building itself. However, if the high school dance team is practicing in the school parking lot, it is now prohibited, since a school-sponsored activity is taking place in the parking lot.
How does a Texas gun-free school zone sign impact this law?
The gun-free school zone sign in Texas does not create any new prohibitions. It simply enhances the punishment range of a weapons crime that may occur near a school. If it is found at trial that a gun-related crime occurred within 300 feet of a school or school-sponsored activity, then the punishment jumps up to the next higher level, for example, from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor.
Is the federal gun-free school zone law the same?
No. The federal law does create an entirely new offense. Under federal law, there’s a blanket prohibition that makes it illegal to possess a gun within 1,000 feet of a public, parochial, or private school. There are some exceptions, which make that prohibition a little easier to stomach. Here are the three most common:
The first is for a person with a license to carry a handgun issued by the state where the school zone is located. This means that a Texas resident, who holds a Texas LTC, can carry in a school zone in Texas, as long as they follow all other Texas laws. However, that same Texas LTC holder would run afoul of the federal gun-free school zone law if he or she were in another state besides Texas. The converse holds true as well.
Second, a person who lives within 1,000 feet of a school is also allowed to keep a firearm on their privately owned property, as long as it is not part of the school grounds.
The third most common exception is that you’re permitted to carry an unloaded gun in a locked case or in a locked gun rack. Although it is currently illegal for a teacher to carry a gun in a school building without a written regulation in place or written authorization from the institution, this is a fast-changing area of the law across the country that may very well impact Texas. In fact, in the last legislative session, Texas made it illegal for a teacher or school employee with an LTC to be fired by a school or disciplined because they had a handgun in their automobile on a school parking lot.
Are new laws headed to Texas?
Many jurisdictions have proposed laws that would allow or regulate the carrying of firearms by teachers or other school employees. As always, we will keep you informed of any changes or proposed changes to our laws here in Texas.
If you have any further questions about gun laws related to school zones, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney today.