Under Texas Penal Code 42.12, it is illegal to recklessly discharge a firearm “inside the corporate limits of a municipality having a population of 100,000 or more.” To be found guilty under this law, a person must discharge a gun “recklessly.” Courts have generally interpreted this to mean that a person must be firing a gun in a highly populated place and in a way that creates an unreasonable danger.

An actor must be reckless not simply with respect to the simple act of pulling the trigger of the firearm itself, but rather, with respect to some circumstance surrounding the conduct of discharging the firearm–some circumstance other than the only circumstance expressly listed in the statute. In order to comply with Article 21.15’s notice requirement, the State must allege that the firearm was, e.g., discharged into the ground or sky amidst a crowd of people, or in the backyard of a residential neighborhood, on the grounds of an elementary school, in the direction of a traffic sign, or in a public park.

A violation of this law is a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Probation and deferred adjudication are usually options for Class A misdemeanor sentences, depending on the facts of a case and a defendant’s prior criminal record.

It is important to note that municipalities may also create their own laws prohibiting the firing of guns within their own city limits. For instance, most large cities in Texas have municipal laws prohibiting the discharge of certain firearms within city limits. Thus firing a gun within the city limits of a large city could lead to both state and city penalties. Even if you live in a town with a population smaller than 100,000, you should check your local municipal code before firing a gun within the city limits.

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Penal Code Section 42.12

DISCHARGE OF FIREARM IN CERTAIN MUNICIPALITIES

(a)  A person commits an offense if the person recklessly discharges a firearm inside the corporate limits of a municipality having a population of 100,000 or more.

(b)  An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

(c)  If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code, the person may be prosecuted under either section.

(d)  Subsection (a) does not affect the authority of a municipality to enact an ordinance which prohibits the discharge of a firearm.

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