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What are Gun Crimes in Austin, Texas?

Gun crimes in Austin City refer to criminal offenses committed with firearms or certain gun-specific violations involving the illegal possession, carrying, or transfer of a firearm. As the capital city of Texas, Austin City follows state and federal laws and makes the following gun crimes categories punishable:

  • Unlawful possession by a felon: Individuals with prior felony convictions cannot own a gun in Austin City unless under the conditions provided under Tex. Penal Code § 46.04, which permits gun possession of felons on the premises where they live five years after parole, supervision, or release, whichever is later. Any gun possession in violation of this section is a Third Degree Felony punishable by incarceration from two to 10 years and may include fines not more than $10,000. However, if the violation is by persons subject to a protective order or the criminal history was a Class A Misdemeanor on assault involving family violence, it shall be classified as a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by incarceration not exceeding one year, fines not more than $4,000, or both.
  • Unlawful carry of a firearm in restricted places: Carrying a gun in certain locations where firearms are prohibited is a Third Degree Felony, even if the person has a License to Carry. These restricted places include places licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, correctional facilities, government courts, polling units during an election, and secured areas of an airport. However, unlawful carry by persons under 21 years of age is a Class A Misdemeanor.
  • Unlawful carry: It is a Class A misdemeanor to carry a firearm into certain other restricted places like licensed hospitals, institutes of higher education, rooms for open meetings, civil containment facilities, and other places stated under Tex. Penal Code § 46.035 (a), (a-1), (b2,5), (d), and (e).
  • Firearm smuggling: The illegal transfer or transportation of firearms for profit or more than once is a Second Degree Felony if involving three or more firearms or a Third Degree Felony if involving less than three firearms.
  • Unlawful transfer of weapon: It is a State Jail Felony to intentionally or knowingly sell, rent, loan, deliver, or provide a handgun to persons who are intoxicated, younger than 18 years, under an active protective order, and persons who the actor knows intend to use the handgun unlawfully. Providing a handgun to felons before the fifth anniversary of release or supervision and transferring weapons while being under an active protective order is also a State Jail Felony punishable by incarceration from 180 days to two years and additional fines not exceeding $10,000.
  • Prohibited weapon possession: The sale, possession, manufacture, repair, or transportation of prohibited weapons like short-barrel firearms, machine guns, and armor-piercing ammunition is a Third Degree Felony, except if the item is registered or categorized as a relic or curio by the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Deadly conduct: Under Tex. Penal Code § 22.05, recklessly engaging in conduct like discharging a firearm towards one or more people or in the direction of a building, vehicle, or habitation is a Third Degree Felony.
  • Disorderly conduct: Actions such as displaying a gun in a public place to cause alarm and discharging a gun across or on a public road is a Class B Misdemeanor under Tex. Penal Code § 42 and punishable by a jail term not exceeding 180 days, fines not exceeding $2,000, or both. However, the reckless discharge of a firearm within the limits of certain municipalities with at least 100,000 population is a Class A Misdemeanor.
  • Making a firearm accessible to a child: It is a Class C Misdemeanor if a child gets hold of a gun due to the gun owner's negligence and discharges the gun without causing serious harm to self or others. This is punishable by fines not more than $500. However, if the weapon causes serious harm or death, it is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a jail term not exceeding one year, or fines not exceeding $4,000, or both.

Violent offenses involving the use of a gun, such as homicide, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault shall be charged according to the specific offense, although gun use may serve as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

How Many Gun Crimes are Committed With a Legally Obtained Firearm in Austin?

According to the Gun Crimes Report provided by Austin Police Department (APD), there were 1,110 specific firearm offenses and 1,546 violent offenses committed with firearms recorded in Austin in 2020. Compared to 2019, specific firearm offenses increased by 34.71%, while violent offenses committed with firearms increased by 46.96%.

Specific firearm offenses included unlawful carry of weapons (UCW), possession of a firearm by a felon (PFF), and disorderly conduct - gun offense (DOC). On the other hand, crimes committed with firearms consisted of homicide, robbery, and aggravated assault which were further divided into aggravated assault family violence, and aggravated assault non-family violence, the latter which comprised 53.36% of all offenses committed with firearms.

Who Can Possess a Gun in Austin?

From September 2021, individuals who are at least 21 years of age and not otherwise prohibited from possessing a gun by law can carry a handgun openly or concealed on their person without a permit, as per House Bill 1927 (Open Carry).  However, state and federal laws regulate the possession, carry, or transfer of firearms by some persons and in certain places. For instance, federal laws restrict (with certain exemptions) licensed dealers from selling any firearm to persons under 18 years of age and from selling ammunition or firearm (excluding rifles and shotguns) from persons under 21 years of age.

The following persons may not qualify for open carry:

  • Anyone under 21 years of age
  • Persons with prior felony convictions before the fifth anniversary of release, parole, or supervision, whichever is later
  • Intoxicated persons except as described in Tex. Penal Code § 46.02(a-6)
  • Persons with recent convictions on offenses punishable as a Class A misdemeanor and involving a member of the offender’s household or family before the anniversary of release or community supervision, whichever is later
  • Persons subject to an active protective order as per Tex. Penal Code § 46.04(c)
  • Persons restricted from firearm possession, purchase, or ownership under federal law.

Interested persons can still get the license to carry through a licensing process that involves online applications, submitting supporting documents, fingerprinting, training, examination, and shooting proficiency demonstration.

Note: There are also laws prohibiting the ownership of certain weapons.

What if My Gun is Stolen and Used in a Crime in Austin?

The use of a stolen gun to commit a crime may have legal implications on the gun owner if the gun owner cannot:

  • Provide an alibi
  • Prove that the gun was stolen
  • Prove that the gun was not intentionally provided for the crime
  • Prove that he/she is not involved in the crime.

Gun owners can also be charged with criminal negligence in some cases if the reckless placement of the weapon resulted in it being used to commit a crime. Persons whose stolen weapons were used to commit a crime should contact a lawyer for legal advice on defense against any charges.

In 2020 alone, there were 1,016 stolen firearms in Austin, according to the Austin PD Gun Crimes Analysis. To avoid legal implications in case a stolen gun is later used in a crime, gun owners should immediately report the theft with local law enforcement or file a firearm theft report with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Call the ATF Stolen Firearms Program Manager at (888) 930-9275 for questions concerning preparing a theft report. For help in getting a gun record or serial number, contact the Federal Firearms Licensee or dealer where the gun was purchased.

How Often is a Gun Used to Stop a Crime in Austin?

The brandishing or use of a weapon to defend oneself, others, or property against harm or violent attack is known as defensive gun use. However, not all defensive gun use in the City of Austin gets reported, especially after successfully preventing a crime without firing the weapon. The National Research Council estimates that between 60,000 and 2.5 million occurrences of defensive gun use occur in the United States each year.

Consequences for Immigrants With Gun Crime Convictions

As per the Immigration and Nationality Act, immigrants convicted of certain firearm offenses concerning the possession, carrying, purchase, sale, or transfer of firearms or conspiracy to convicted of conspiring to commit firearm offenses are deportable. Conviction of gun crimes may also lead to a denial of naturalization or immigration applicants being deemed inadmissible if the gun crime falls under any of the following crime-related grounds for being inadmissible:

  • Crimes of moral turpitude such as aggravated assault and murder
  • Multiple criminal convictions for non-political offenses that resulted in a total term of at least five years in jail
  • Aggravated felony convictions for persons who have been removed from the U.S. and seek re-admittance
  • Severe violation of religious freedom by foreign government officials
  • Money laundering
  • Significant traffickers
  • Prostitution and commercial vice
  • Controlled substance traffickers.

Austin Weapons and Firearms Violation Attorneys

A weapon crime conviction can lead to consequences like jail time, fines, and other negative societal implications. To get the best defense against weapons charges, accused or arrested persons should consult or hire a lawyer, especially one with experience in defending weapon charges. Weapons and firearms violation attorneys in Austin are experienced attorneys who specialize in defending clients against gun charges using their experience, knowledge of gun laws, understanding of the local legal system, and other available resources.

From proving innocence to mitigating charges to getting lesser penalties for persons who violated gun laws, firearms violation attorneys provide legal defense and help clients get the best possible judgment for each case.

Persons facing gun charges on unlawful firearm possession, carrying, transfer, or use in Austin City may use any of the following defenses, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case:

  • Innocence: The best defense is to prove that the defendant’s actions were legal or that the defendant never violated a law. This can also be done by showing that there is not enough evidence to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that the defendant committed the crime.
  • Self-defense: Rather than denying an action, this defense may be applicable in justifying gun use. Pleading self-defense in a gun-use charge involves proving that the defendant had encountered an attack and gun use was necessary to avoid or protect against imminent harm or death. This also applies to the defense of others and property.
  • Constitutional violations: This is a defense aimed at dismissing charges due to unconstitutional conduct like forced confessions, illegal search and seizure, and arrests without Miranda warning. These are violations of one Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Regardless of whether the defendant committed the action, this defense is intended to cancel the entire case.
  • Lack of intent: This is a defense to show that the defendant was in a state where he/she had no idea what was happening or had acted involuntarily without intending the consequences. For instance, forgetting to remove a weapon before going to gun-restricted places.
  • Statute of limitation: Another case-dismissal strategy is to show that the statute of limitation for the offense has expired. Therefore, the court cannot prosecute the case.

Gun Enhancement Defenses

In Austin, it is illegal to carry out the following gun enhancements or alterations as per state and federal laws:

  • Sawed-off shotgun
  • Bump stocks
  • Unregistered use of vertical foregrips and other regulated firearm parts
  • Use of machine gun components and automatic weapon parts.

Persons charged with gun enhancement or modification crimes may use the following defense depending on the case:

  • Legal modification: An enhancement can be permitted if it did not cross the legal threshold or if any parts used were registered with the proper authorities or otherwise not subject to registration by law. For instance, a rifle barrel should be at least 16 inches, a shotgun barrel should be 18 inches, and the overall length of a sawed-off shotgun should be 36 inches.
  • Incidental possession: This defense can be used against charges of prohibited weapon possession if the altered weapon belongs to somebody else and was left in the defendant's custody.
  • Lack of criminal intent: This argument can be used to show one’s innocence by showing that the defendant had bought the weapon at a gun show without realizing that it had been enhanced.
  • Lack of evidence: Cases can be dismissed if the evidence is insufficient to prove – without a doubt – that the defendant enhanced the weapon or possessed an altered weapon.
  • Wrongful conduct: Unconstitutional actions like illegal search and seizures, forced confessions, and unlawful arrests can lead to the dismissal of charges.