Texas, Guns, and the Law
While opponents and proponents of gun possession have argued its interpretation for more than a century, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to possess firearms; and while in recent years the number of individuals owning guns has gone down, the number of guns overall has increased . . . and so have the dangers.
Texas is no exception. From the Alamo to the Rangers, guns have been associated with the state’s cultural heritage since its founding. According to statistics by Concealed Nation, with a population of roughly 25 million, there are an estimated 22 million guns in Texas, or as many as exist in all of Germany.
According to the Houston Chronicle, this does not mean that almost every Texan owns a gun. Instead, the average gun-owning household owned 4.1 guns in 1994 compared to 8.1 now, which means that only 35.7 percent of the state’s residents are gun owners.
However, guns do have drawbacks. Statistics from the organization Texas Gun Sense show there were 3,203 gun deaths in 2015; 1,994 suicides by gun; and 609 injuries and deaths of children/teens.
Many critics suggest part of the reason is lax gun laws in the state. According to Find Law, an online legal resource published by Thomson Reuters, Texas has some of the fewest restrictions on firearms in the country. While the state follows federal guidelines prohibiting machine guns, short-barreled firearms, silencers, armor-piercing ammunition, zip guns and explosive weapons, state laws are otherwise extremely gun-friendly.
Texas allows gun ownership for weapons except handguns to individuals 18 and over, and for individuals under 18 with parental consent. Individuals over 21 may purchase any legal weapon. There is no waiting period to buy a weapon, no registration, no owner license requirement, no assault weapon law and no magazine capacity restriction.
Open-carry is legal with a concealed carry permit, and rifles and long guns may legally be carried openly provided they are not worn to cause alarm. Guns are also legal on both community and 4-year college and university campuses.
The only individuals not allowed to own a firearm are felons within five years of incarceration, minors without permission of parents and guardians, and individuals currently in a penal institution.
Despite the gun-friendliness of the state, however, both criminal and civil laws exist to protect individuals injured by a firearm. While criminal suits enforce government laws and inflict punishments, civil claims for personal injury sue for compensation for damages.
Personal injury claims essentially allege that an individual has been injured through the negligence or inaction of another. For example, if an individual is hurt in a store because of a slippery floor, the store may be held liable for the injury. The same is true with firearm injuries. Depending on the specific circumstances, if an individual is shot by another, the shooter may be considered liable.
Compensation for these injuries not only includes medical bills and assistance, as well as compensation for loss of quality of life, but may also include punitive damages, meant to punish extremely egregious actions and potentially set an example to help avoid the crime's being repeated by others.
Obviously, circumstances vary, and details make a difference. As a result, most times the best bet to know whether an injury qualifies for a personal injury claim is to consult an attorney. A lawyer will be familiar with federal, state and local laws and will help you evaluate your claim.
AUTHOR: Michael Guajardo
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.