Although it’s legal for licensed firearm owners to openly carry handguns, and for just about any adult to openly carry a long-arm rifle in the Lone Star State, individuals who are caught with certain keychain designs could face up to a year in jail.
These popular keychains are made to look like cats, foxes, bats, or other pointy-eared animals and are intended to provide a quick, handy means of self-defense in an emergency. But attorneys advise Texas citizens that just because these keychains are sold in the state doesn’t mean they’re legal to use or even to carry.
What Types of Devices Constitute as “Deadly Weapons” in Texas?
Texas has some very specific laws on possession of weapons. A law that prohibits brass knuckles has also been held to apply to these quirky keychains. Guns and clubs can be carried just about everywhere but schools and other public buildings, knives with smaller-than-six-inch blades are now legal, and pepper spray is legal to carry (although negligently discharging it in a crowded public location could lead to trouble).
But brass knuckles and similar devices—those that are small enough to fit in one hand but are still capable of inflicting serious injuries—are still tightly controlled as “potentially deadly weapons” under Texas law. The law prohibiting brass knuckles defines them broadly as “any instrument” with immovable finger rings or guards that can be used to punch, slash, or otherwise strike someone. Being found in possession of knuckles can mean you’ll face a misdemeanor charge, with a potential $4,000 fine and one year in jail for each violation.
Even if you’re not arrested or charged with possession of knuckles, police officers may seize any artificially sharp keychains they observe if you’re stopped for a traffic violation. Because these items are illegal in Texas, forfeiting one to an officer means you’ll never see it again.
Will Texas Legalize Brass Knuckles?
With the many real risks of violence against the unarmed, many lawmakers and self-defense groups have begun to lobby for a repeal of the prohibition against brass knuckles.
Because anyone who injures another person with a cat keychain (or a knife, gun, or canister of pepper spray) can be charged with assault, battery, and a host of other misdemeanor or felony offenses related to violence, some say that this law goes too far by outlawing an entire class of self-defense weapons instead of just punishing the use of such weapons.
But as the law stands now, brass knuckles, metal or plastic pointy-eared keychains, and other handheld items that can inflict bodily injury can subject you to legal liability if caught. You may want to investigate some self-defense alternatives until this law is changed.