Handgun Laws in Texas

The lawful right to use deadly force to defend one’s abode from intrusion and unlawful trespass of other persons is known as the castle doctrine (Yale University web site, 2007). This doctrine originated from English common law which designates a person’s castle and all others lawfully living in it to enjoy protection from any unlawful trespass and the death that may eventually result for protecting one’s home/castle may be justified (Yale University web site, 2007). The castle doctrine is adopted in the legislative enactments of the states, albeit not all of them (Laurence, 2005).

Some states in the U. S. have adopted the ‘castle doctrine’ with ‘stand-your-ground’ clause or the ‘Make my day’ proviso. For instance, the adoption of this type of law in Florida has expanded rights of self defense in criminal cases (Willing, 2006). On the other hand, there are states which adopted castle doctrine with the ‘duty-to-retreat’ clause like for instance the state of Texas, before the enactment of HB 284 and SB 378 (Longley, 2007). The state of Texas did not have laws that allowed possession of fire for those less than 21 years of age.

Those who are 21 years old or older are allowed to possess and carry handguns provided that permits to carry shall have been issued. Moreover, towns are not allowed to locally pass municipal laws relative to gun control (National Rifle Association Institute of Legislative Action web site, n. d. ) (Section 46. 01, Texas Penal Code). Under the Texas Constitution specifically Article 1, Section 23 allows the citizens “to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State;” however, the Legislature by virtue of legislative enactments shall “regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime" (Briggs, 2007).

In addition, there are general laws on self-defense. For instance, the Texas Penal Code, Chapter 9 thereof provides justification for use of deadly force in defense of one’s person, of another, in defense of one’s property or another’s property, in protection of life or health under the circumstances specified under the Code (Texas Legislature Online web site, n. d. ). On October 16, 1991 a shooting rampage occurred in Killeen, Texas at Luby’s Cafeteria killing 23 people and injuring several others.

This was perpetrated by George Jo Hennard (KWTX web site, 2007). This incident sparked legislative action to draft and enact a law in 1995. Originally, the 1973 law allowed a person defending his person to retreat when he is attacked (Longley, 2007). The law allowed the citizens to carry firearms but these must be concealed and with the requisite permit to carry being issued after meeting the requirements imposed by law. An exception was enacted where force is allowed “without retreat when the intruder had illegally entered the victim’s home” (Longley, 2007).

This exception was even extended by Governor Rick Perry to “vehicles and workplaces” (Longley, 2007). This law, Senate Bill 378 took effect on September 1, 2007. Discussion Under Texas criminal laws, the consequent death or injury to an intruder inflicted by a victim’s use of deadly force including the use of a firearm covered by the requisite permit, to defend his residence or of other’s and with the new law, even vehicles and workplaces can be deemed as justified under the self defense provisions of the law.

Part of the 1973 law was the duty-to-retreat clause which refers to the responsibility on the part of the victim to retreat and announce his intent to use deadly force before he is allowed by law to use it (Longley, 2007). The ‘duty-to-retreat laws’ usually require that deadly force is relied upon and resorted to only when danger to life is clear (Peterson, 2006). This has been the subject of criticisms as this only gives undue advantage to the trespasser or aggressor. Thus, the National Rifle Association among the many advocates called for the ‘stand-your-ground’ clause.