6 Surprising Things That Are Legal to Own in Texas. What a State!
Texas has a reputation as a state which places a high value on personal liberty, and it may come as no surprise that it is legal to own some interesting things in the Lone Star State. How interesting? Well, interesting enough to make a person wonder how viable it would be to become a super-villain of some kind, or at least to create one's own zoo. Let's take a look at just a few of the things that are legal for a person to own here:
6. A Military Surplus Tank As far as I can tell, there's no law against shelling out the cash to buy a tank, and there are quite a few websites that specialize in the sale of old armored vehicles to civilians, including tanks. A person who wants to ride around his or her property in a several thousand pound tank can buy them for upwards of $20,000 or so, and let the good times roll! It appears that most of the guns would have to be deactivated in order to keep ownership legal, but an individual who owns a tank can probably just crush anything in his path anyway.
5. A Tiger
This one makes me sad, but it's not that hard to own a tiger in Texas, and let's face it, it should be. There are some estimates that there are more tigers in private hands here than there are running wild in India. As far as I can find, it is legal for a person to own a tiger and other large dangerous wild animals as long as the owner can prove that the animal will be safely caged and taken care of, and he is granted a license to own the animal. Unfortunately, Texas has a bad reputation for enforcement of those meager rules, and it known to be a hotbed for shady tiger sales.
While wild animals aren't legal to own inside Houston itself, and other municipalities have varying ordinances controlling ownership, Texas has few state laws controlling that stuff. So, while it's completely irresponsible for almost anyone to own a tiger, it's possible to buy one for under a grand. Just keep in mind that it will soon grow to be a 500 pound apex predator that eats around 30 pounds of raw meat daily. There's really no valid reason an individual should own one. Go to a shelter and get a striped house cat instead, they'll make a far better pet, and be happier than some poor tiger would be in captivity. They're also a lot less likely to escape and eat the neighbors.
4. Other Wild Animals While tigers are a specific animal that a lot of Texans seem to seek out as pets, there's a whole slew of other animals that are technically legal for people to own, which they probably shouldn't. Technically, a person can legally own a large selection of animals that might worry their neighbors if some minimal requirements are met. Bears, gorillas, chimpanzees, jackals, hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs are but a few from that list. But again, unless a person is either Tarzan or a professional zookeeper, it's probably a lot more trouble than it's worth to build a proper cheetah enclosure and care for that animal. But, hey, if a person wants to be the most irresponsible and reviled neighbor for miles around, caging up a bear might go a long way towards accomplishing that goal. Curiously, as far as I can tell, wolves aren't on the list of dangerous wild animals that require registration to own, but coyotes are. We have some weird laws here, that's for sure.
3. Venomous Snakes
I consider this as a different category than the dangerous wild animals listed above, but the fact that it's relatively easy to legally own a venomous serpent here in Texas further illustrates we have pretty lax laws in regards to animals an individual can own. The regulations covering which venomous snakes are legal to own are confusing to me, but $20 will get a person a Recreational Controlled Exotic Snakes permit at any place that sells hunting licenses, and that seems to cover all "non-indigenous venomous snakes" and a number of constrictors. Does that mean a regular person can legally own a cobra here? That I don't know, and I'd have to research that more, but I'll assume that if you need an inexpensive license to own non-indigenous poisonous snakes, that means people can own a few varieties not found here, and it sounds as if they don't need a license to keep any of the local varieties as pets.
2. Switchblades Ah, the infamous switchblade, fabled weapon of choice for '50s movie hoodlums and ne'er do wells ever since. Truth be told, I've never understood why switchblades were illegal, since any knife can be used to assault someone, and a fixed blade knife is legal and immediately dangerous in the wrong hands. Sure enough, it seems as if the roots of laws banning switchblades had a lot more to do with public hysteria over juvenile delinquent gangs in big cities way back when than they did any real epidemic of switchblade violence. Fears of gang fights featuring switchblades like a non musical version of "Westside Story" filled newspapers in the 1950s, and the public began to associate those knives with violent youth gangs. Then politicians riding that wave of public fear stepped in, and laws were passed forbidding possession of the scary automatic knives. Considering that many pocketknives can be opened with one hand almost instantaneously by someone with a few minutes of practice, it just seemed silly that switchblades were still illegal.
Recently, the laws changed in Texas, and it is now legal to own and carry an automatic knife, with a few limitations still in place. Whether they will continue to have the outlaw image remains to be seen, but I kind of doubt it. I guess criminals can just start throwing venomous snakes at their foes if switchblades fall out of favor.
I was astounded recently to discover that flamethrowers are not illegal according to federal law, are only regulated on a state level, and that Texas allows them. I'm not sure why I would be surprised, other than up until recently automatic knives were prohibited, but apparently a war device that spits flames a huge distance is totally allowed. I'm not exactly saying they shouldn't be. I mean if a person can own a tiger why not a flamethrower? It's not like I can recall anyone using one to rob banks or to go on some rampage across the state, so flamethrowers seem to not be a popular choice of weapon with hardcore criminals. I'm told that some ranchers use them to clear brush, which makes them about the most spectacular way to clear a field possible.
So there you have it. If one aspired to become a self styled super-villain, he could legally acquire a lot of the more exotic gear to indulge that fantasy, riding around his compound in a Sherman tank, with a procession of tigers, throwing venomous snakes at enemies while simultaneously shooting fire at them, keeping a switchblade as the last line of defense. Man, I love this state sometimes.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.