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Prohibited Weapons Law Image

Prohibited Weapons

Texas law prohibits the intentional or knowing possession, manufacture, transportation, repair and sale of firearm “silencers,” explosive weapons, machine guns, short-barrel guns, knuckles, armor piercing ammo, chemical weapons, zip guns and tire deflation devices.1 H.B. 913 added “improvised explosive devices” to this list after the bill passed the 85th Texas legislature. If you have a question about what those types of weapons are under the law, they’re described in more detail below. There are also numerous exceptions to the law described below that would allow these weapons to be carried.

This law was updated in 2017 with the passage of H.B. 9132 and H.B. 18193. The new law takes effect September 1, 2017.4, 5 H.B. 913 defined improvised explosive devices, added them to the list of prohibited weapons and included them in the list of weapons that involve third degree felony penalties (see footnote 1). H.B. 1819 amended the statute to include language clarifying that firearm silencers are not prohibited under this statute if they are in compliance with federal law (see footnote 1).

Have you been charged with a Prohibited Weapons violation? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

There are two main exceptions under the law. First, silencers, explosives, machine guns and short-barrel guns are not prohibited if they are registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice.6 Note that it is up to you to either register the weapon ahead of purchasing it or look into the weapon’s classification. If you’re unsure of how to do this, you should consult an attorney.

Second, any otherwise prohibited weapons may not actually be prohibited if you were performing an official duty of the armed forces or national guard, a governmental law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility.7 Also, you have an affirmative defense if you were acting incident to (1) dealing with a short-barrel firearm or tire deflation device solely as an antique or curio or (2) dealing with armor-piercing ammunition solely for the purpose of making the ammunition available to the armed forces or national guard, a governmental law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility or (3) dealing with a tire deflation device solely for the purpose of making the device available to the armed forces or national guard, a governmental law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility.8 These “incident to” exceptions are technically affirmative defenses (requiring you to present proof at trial).

What is a silencer under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(4) defines a “firearm silencer” as “any device designed, made, or adapted to muffle the report of a firearm.”

What is an explosive weapon under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(2) defines an “explosive weapon” as:

any explosive or incendiary bomb, grenade, rocket, or mine, that is designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, or for the principal purpose of causing such a loud report as to cause undue public alarm or terror, and includes a device designed, made, or adapted for delivery or shooting an explosive weapon.

What is a machine gun under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(9) defines a “machine gun” as

any firearm that is capable of shooting more than two shots automatically, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

What is a short-barrel gun under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(10) defines a “short-barrel gun” as

a rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches, or any weapon made from a shotgun or rifle if, as altered, it has an overall length of less than 26 inches.

What is a zip gun under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(16) defines a “zip gun” as

a device or combination of devices that was not originally a firearm and is adapted to expel a projectile through a smooth-bore or rifled-bore barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance.

What is a tire deflation device under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(16) defines a “tire deflation device” as

a device, including a caltrop or spike strip, that, when driven over, impedes or stops the movement of a wheeled vehicle by puncturing one or more of the vehicle’s tires. The term does not include a traffic control device that:

(A) is designed to puncture one or more of a vehicle’s tires when driven over in a specific direction; and

(B) has a clearly visible sign posted in close proximity to the traffic control device that prohibits entry or warns motor vehicle operators of the traffic control device.

What is an improvised explosive device under Texas law?

Effective September 1, 2017, the definition of improvised explosive device is “a completed and operational bomb designed to cause serious bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage that is fabricated in an improvised manner using nonmilitary components. The term does not include: (A) unassembled components that can be legally purchased and possessed without a license, permit, or other governmental approval; or (B) an exploding target that is used for firearms practice, sold in kit form, and contains the components of a binary explosive.”9

What is the penalty for a Prohibited Weapons conviction?

Possession (also, manufacture, sale, etc.) of “knuckles” is punished as a Class A misdemeanor, with a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $4000 fine.10 “Tire deflation device”-related convictions are punished as a state jail felony.11 All other Prohibited Weapons convictions are punished as third degree felonies,12 including improvised explosive devices in the new law.13 Learn more about penalties for different grades of felonies and misdemeanors

Exception for chemical dispensing devices

If the state’s attorneys allege a chemical dispensing device as the Prohibited Weapon, they must prove that it’s use was not by someone who is a security officer and has received training on the use of the chemical dispensing device by a training program that is: (1) provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement; or (2) approved for the purposes described by this subsection by the Texas Private Security Board of the Department of Public Safety.14


Legal References:

1Penal Code Section 46.05(a) –

A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells:

(1) any of the following items, unless the item is registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice:

(A) an explosive weapon;

(B) a machine gun;

(C) a short-barrel firearm; or

(D) a firearm silencer;

(2) knuckles;

(3) armor-piercing ammunition;

(4) a chemical dispensing device;

(5) a zip gun; or

(6) a tire deflation device.

H.B. 913 in the 85th Texas Legislature amended this list to include improvised explosive devices. Under the H.B. 913 version of law, the list will be as follows:

(1) any of the following items, unless the item is registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice:

(A) an explosive weapon;

(B) a machine gun;

(C) a short-barrel firearm; or

(D) a firearm silencer;

(2) knuckles;

(3) armor-piercing ammunition;

(4) a chemical dispensing device;

(5) a zip gun; or

(6) a tire deflation device; or

(7) an improvised explosive device.

However, H.B. 1819 also amended the statute, and the list looks slightly different under that version of the law:

(1) any of the following items, unless the item is registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or otherwise not subject to that registration requirement or unless the item is classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice:

(A) an explosive weapon;

(B) a machine gun;

(C) a short-barrel firearm; or

(D) a firearm silencer;

(2) knuckles;

(3) armor-piercing ammunition;

(4) a chemical dispensing device;

(5) a zip gun; or

(6) a tire deflation device; or

(7) a firearm silencer, unless the firearm silencer is classified as a curio or relic by the United States Department of Justice or the actor otherwise possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells the firearm silencer in compliance with federal law.

2House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature

3House Bill 1819, 85th Texas Legislature

4House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature, Sections 3-4, effective September 1, 2017

5House Bill 1819, 85th Texas Legislature, Sections 2-3, effective September 1, 2017

6Penal Code Section 46.05(a)(1)

7Penal Code Section 46.05(b)

8Penal Code Section 46.05(d)

9Penal Code Section 46.01(a)(18), as created by House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 1, effective September 1, 2017

10Penal Code Section 46.05(e)

11Penal Code Section 46.05(e)

12Penal Code Section 46.05(e)

13Penal Code Section 46.05(e), as amended by House Bill 913, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 2, effective September 1, 2017

14Penal Code Section 46.05(f). A “security officer” is defined in Penal Code Section 46.05(g) as “a commissioned security officer as defined by Section 1702.002, Occupations Code, or a noncommissioned security officer registered under Section 1702.221, Occupations Code.”

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