Texans: Carry brass knuckles, security key chains and you break the law — for now

Move over knives and guns.

Brass knuckles might be making a comeback in Texas.

A plan to remove them — as well as self-defense plastic key chains shaped like cats or dogs with pointy ears — from the state’s list of banned weapons appears to be gaining momentum in the Texas Legislature.

The proposal has already been approved by a House Committee and is expected to hit the House floor soon.

Some lawmakers, including lead author state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, say it doesn’t make sense to ban brass knuckles and security key chains in a state where residents can walk down the street openly carrying handguns, rifles and knives.

The move to change the law has become a bipartisan effort, with state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, signing on as a joint author.

“I want to be consistent on the idea of personal protection,” said Stickland, who said it’s fun to sign on to a Democrat’s bill. “Whatever someone wants to use for their personal protection — whether it’s brass knuckles, a gun or anything — we need to expand freedom.”

Earlier this month, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved House Bill 446.

The bill could soon head to the House floor for consideration. If the Legislature approves the measure before the session ends May 27, and the governor signs off on it, it could go into effect Sept. 1.

Weapons in Texas

State lawmakers have worked through the years to make legal previously off-limit weapons.

In 2017, it became legal for Texans to carry machetes, Bowie knives, swords, spears and daggers — any knife with a blade longer than 5 1/2 inches — in many places across the state.

And in 2016, it became legal for licensed Texans to openly carry handguns. It has long been legal for Texans to carry shotguns or AR-15s in public.

Apparently forgotten along the way were items such as brass knuckles and safety key chains. Getting caught with them is a Class A misdemeanor, which comes with a fine of up to $4,000 and a year in county jail.

“It has been suggested that the classification of the instrument of knuckles as a weapon ... is unnecessary and outdated and that the instrument represents no danger to the general public,” according to the bill analysis.

The key chain weapons are easy to find online, particularly those in the shape of a dog or cat, with eye holes big enough for fingers and with very sharp, pointy ears.

Companies selling the self-defense key chains, including the Home Security Superstore, began including disclaimers with their products.

“By purchasing a self-defense weapon, including knuckle weapons from us, you understand that The Home Security Superstore does not warrant that you may legally purchase, possess, or carry these products according to any state or local laws,” one disclaimer states.

Still illegal

Even if brass knuckles come off the state’s list of banned weapons, these weapons would remain off limits:

Explosive weapons, machine guns, short-barrel firearms or firearm silencers — unless these items are classified as relics or registered with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Homemade guns.

Armor-piercing ammunition.

Tire deflation devices.

Chemical dispensing devices (except for items such as pepper spray).

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.