Friday, October 21, 2011

Do You Need a Concealed Handgun License?

I taught the Texas concealed handgun class for over 10 years.  In that time, the laws and administrative rules relaxed.  This reduced the amount of work for the DPS, instructors and CHL holders.  More recently the laws for carrying a gun have relaxed to the point that the vast majority of Texans don’t need a CHL.
I always opened my CHL classes with the participants introducing themselves and explaining why they are there.  The most popular answer was “I want to legally carry a gun when I travel.”  Carrying a handgun while travelling has been legal in our state for some time, but it was often clouded by circumstances that placed the burden on a citizen to prove they are traveling.  Once they established residence in another county by renting a hotel room they were no longer a traveler. 
Throughout my career as a firearm instructor I have always preached that a firearm should be carried on the body in a quality strong-side holster.  This is the safest, most secure means of carrying a weapon.  It is the fastest to draw, easiest to conceal and most comfortable to wear.  There are a few other circumstances where this may not be the case, but for the average cop or armed citizen there is no better option.  Guns should NEVER be carried in a purse, briefcase or stored in a vehicle.  These are all things that are frequently stolen.  One of the reasons we arm ourselves is to protect against robbery.  While handing the guy your property, why not hand him your weapon at the same time?
My point about the holster is to illustrate that many concealed handgun licensees don’t carry a weapon on their person.  Citizen’s guns most frequently live in glove compartments, consoles, between seats and in door pockets.  They’re often in a holster that hasn’t been strapped to a belt since their last trip to the range six months ago to fire the proficiency course.  Don’t laugh, most cops shoot about that often.  For lack of comfort or confidence, most don’t carry the weapon on their person.
The most recent changes to our gun laws implemented what is popularly called the “Castle Doctrine.”  This means that a person may carry a firearm in their home, vehicle, and places under their control.   The weapon has to be concealed and they can’t be criminals or do criminal things in the mean time.  Check out Section 46.02 of the Texas Penal Code.
So what does this mean?  Unless you intend to strap the weapon on your body, cover it with a jacket, outer shirt or conceal it in a “fanny pack” holster and carry it in public places, there’s no point in getting a concealed handgun license.  Depending on your age and other conditions, you’ll be out over $300 to get the license, and then on the hook to renew every 4-5 years at $70.  This may be well worth it to someone in the right circumstance, but experience says that most will rarely if ever use the privileges given by the CHL except for the shortened wait time in purchasing a handgun. 
When the Midland Shooter’s Association became a bad place to take customers I stopped teaching public CHL classes because it didn’t make enough money to rent or buy my own range.  I visited MSA this summer to qualify the Midland College Police and found that it hadn’t changed at all.  If you’re one of the few who could really use a concealed handgun license, I recommend Dennis Morris or Tom Vannaman.

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