In the United States, thoughts and opinions are not crimes. However, in the cases of white supremacists, being a member of a white supremacist group can garner unwanted attention from law enforcement.
Organizations with this kind of ideology are what law enforcement is especially monitoring for crimes right now, whether the belief system is directly attributable or not.
Recently, a group of 12 Texans, known members of the white supremacist group Aryan Circle, was arrested in connection with a number of crimes from federal racketeering conspiracy to unlawful firearms trafficking.
Because many groups with thoughts and opinions outside what is considered “mainstream” tend to also practice their right to bear arms, we want to focus on weapons trafficking charges.
Differences Between Smuggling and Trafficking Weapons in Texas
Texas law prohibits the smuggling of weapons. That means that it is illegal for anyone to knowingly take part in the transport or transfer of weapons that were known to be bought in violation of Texas or federal law.
Taking part in any arms deals for profit or participating on multiple occasions is a third-degree felony in Texas, which can land someone in prison for up to 10 years.
Weapons trafficking is a little bit different.
Trafficking takes place when weapons are diverted from a lawful stream of commerce into an illegal market. Weapons trafficking crimes generally include one or more of the following participants.
Unlicensed Weapons Sellers
A person who is not a gun dealer is prohibited by federal law from selling guns at gun shows, online, or anywhere else. Licensing exists for sellers so that the government can track purchases to legally eligible people.
A straw purchaser is a person who buys a weapon for another. The person who wants the gun must get someone else to do it. Straw purchasers are typically involved when the party seeking the weapons is ineligible to buy them due to issues with a federal background check or when they don’t otherwise want their name connected to the purchase.
Sometimes, licensed weapons dealers do participate in illegally diverted weapon schemes. Most weapons dealers adhere to federal laws strictly for the sale of weapons, but some do sell things “off the books” and use their knowledge of the system to help prevent detection.
Dark Web Purchases
The dark web exists and is often used to buy illegal things, such as weapons or drugs. In many weapons trafficking schemes, the dark web is used to sell and buy weapons that have had the manufacturer’s serial number removed.
Texas Laws Against Weapons Trafficking
Texas does have laws against illegal weapons trafficking. It is an offense in Texas to intend to establish, participate, and maintain in a combination (a group of three or more people working together in criminal efforts) or in the earnings of a combination or as a criminal gang, the unlawful transportation, repair, sale, or manufacture of weapons.
Under Texas law, a person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if:
- They sell, lease, loan, or give a handgun to anyone they know intends to use it unlawfully,
- They provide a weapon to a child under 18, or
- They sell ammunition or weapons to anyone who is intoxicated.
Weapons trafficking is not something you want to get mixed up in – in or out of Texas. So make sure any type of weapons you’re involved with are within the laws of the state and the federal government.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.