BB Gun Laws in Texas

Every kid in Texas remembers getting their first BB gun (or at least when they were able to play with their neighbors). The short story is that BB guns are legal, of all ages with parental consent, in Texas but we'll go through some nuances in the law including some important variants such as airsoft guns.

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BB Guns are uniquely popular in Texas compared to the rest of the country and thus their laws are of high interest to youths, teens, and their parents alike. We’ll get to the laws that govern BB guns as well as popular variants such as replica Airsoft guns that can look exactly like the real thing.

BB Guns In Texas

Unlike guns, BB Guns are legal in Texas in almost every setting. It really turns on how the BB Gun is used and whether it causes damage to private property. There is no legal age requirement for one to possess a BB Gun in the state of Texas however if one does harm to someone’s property or physical well-being, parents may be responsible for negligence. At the very least, someone will be civilly liable for the damage caused by the child. So be prepared.

Additionally, if the BB Gun is a replica of a real gun, the gun needs to be marked (see the section below for example) with a red marker that indicates to police and law enforcement that the weapon is merely a replica. Numerous police accidental police shootings have occurred because police were unable to tell the difference between nonlethal replicas and the real thing.

Airsoft Guns

A subset of nonlethal guns that are popular with the public in Texas is airsoft guns that fire a BB (similar to a BB gun) except these bb’s are almost exclusively plastic. The issue that law enforcement has with airsoft guns, as opposed to most BB guns, is how realistic the guns can look.

What are Airsoft Guns?

Airsoft guns are replica guns that fire a plastic, nonlethal BB. They can be spring-powered, battery-powered, or gas-powered in terms of their firing mechanism. The practical danger of airsoft guns is more a result of the way they look (see next section) as most BBs fired from airsoft guns are shot with a velocity below 350 feet per second. That said it is possible for them to travel in excess of 750 feet per second, or 210 meters per second, which is fast enough to break the skin. Additionally, there are also concerns about the eyes should one strike an eye directly.

Yes. Airsoft guns are legal in Texas however one must mark the gun accordingly. One of the hallmarks of airsoft guns, and the reason they are so popular in the state involves their ability to appear realistic compared to actual military rifles.

How To Mark Your BB or Airsoft Gun

Both replica BB guns and Airsoft guns need to be marked at the tip of the barrel to indicate that the gun is nonlethal. This may take away a bit of the fun, as the purpose of replicas is to mimic the real thing, but better to be in compliance with the law than be the victim of a fatal shooting over a misunderstanding.

The image below depicts a properly marked airsoft gun that mimics a UZI (an example of a fully automatic illegal gun anywhere in the United States).

BB Gun with proper orange tip.
BB Gun with a proper orange tip installed.

Past Incidents Involving Airsoft Guns

In case you thought we were joking, BB guns and Airsoft guns have been involved in multiple nationwide shootings where police have mistaken the replica guns for actual guns. We’ll highlight a few of them and, although Texas has not been involved in the higher-profile shootings, we hope they provide guidance when instructing your children about how to behave when utilizing these weapons.

Santa Rosa Incident

In October of 2013, a California teen Andy Lopez (he was 13 at the time) was shot by a dispatcher. The Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy shot Lopez who had been walking with a group of other children on a sidewalk. At the time he was holding a replica airsoft gun that looked exactly like an AK-47 assault rifle.

Incident in Maryland

As recently as April 13th, 2021 another fatal shooting occurred when Maryland state police were called specifically over someone with a realistically looking gun (obviously they just said gun, not knowing it was a replica). Upon arriving at the scene, police shot and killed a teenager named Peyton Ham. They claimed he pointed the gun at them and they had little choice but to fire.

The Tamir Rice Incident

Perhaps the most famous case in recent history is the Tamir Rice incident which gained national attention. The case highlighted not only racial concerns but also the concerns over replica firearms. The Cleveland police were called as a boy was holding what the caller seemed to be “a pistol” to the dispatcher. Communication issues were involved as the dispatcher was unable to relay certain critical pieces of information conveyed by the caller, such as that the gun was “probably fake” and that the assailant was “probably a juvenile.”

Rice was fired at twice by the responding officers, being hit only once in the torso. Tamir would die the following day. Not justifying the officer’s actions or the lack of prosecution against the officers or the state after, the airsoft gun Tamir was carrying did not have the marking required (see above) to indicate that the gun was a nonlethal replica.