For those contemplating applying for the Texas Concealed Handgun license the process is fairly straight forward. Basically, if you are a legal resident (you do not have to be a US citizen) of the State of Texas and have a clean arrest record, no convictions and do not owe child support or back taxes, the license should be in the mail to you after you sit through the required class room lectures and pass the shooting test.
The 10 to 15 hour class covers the obvious dos and don’ts about carrying and how to respond to confrontations. Each instructor is free to offer the class as they see fit, with some taking the laid back approach and others offering a more formal setting. Therefore each experience may be different.
In my case, the class was composed of seven males with one being a law enforcement officer from another state renewing his carry license and a female applying for her original. Besides covering the legal requirements of how to carry, the instructor spent time on the psychology of diffusing a confrontation.
Of interest, according to my instructor, is that the license actually raises the level of standard that will be applied to the licensee during any investigation after a weapon is brandished or used. Because you have been granted a license to carry a concealed handgun you are now going to be held to a higher standard than a normal individual without a license.
The classroom also covered the “castle” and the “no duty to retreat” doctrines. The “castle doctrine” applies to everyone, whether licensed or not. According to the instructor, the “castle doctrine” allows anyone, the right to defend their home against any intruder with whatever force they choose to use. Individuals do not have the right to chase the intruder after they have left the home but they can use any, and all the force necessary to stop the intruder once inside the home. That applies to license holders and none license holders alike.
Likewise, the “no duty to retreat” means that you can hold your ground and do not have a duty to retreat while defending someone or your property. So, if there is back door that can be used to escape, the law, according to the instructor does not force you to take that action. That also applies to licensees and unlicensed individuals as well.
The instructor was quick to remind us, though, that the law is designed to be interpreted and therefore each law enforcement and prosecutor will apply each instance at their discretion. As well, it is important to remember that taking a life is not something that can readily be remedied once all of the facts are known and therefore should always be the last resort.
Two items that I did not realize is that the concealed carry permit, at least in Texas, by law, requires that you keep your weapon concealed at all times. In other words, if someone sees your weapon, for example, while reaching up for something and that individual calls the police you are likely to lose the privilege temporarily or even permanently. Concealed means the weapon cannot be seen, even by accident, even a bulge is frowned upon.
The other item the instructor made a point to discuss was showing your carry license along with your driver’s license when stopped by law enforcement, even if you are not carrying at the time. According to the instructor, the reason for this is that the officer will see that you are licensed when he runs the customary background check and wonder why you didn’t inform the officer of your license.
The most interesting thing I learned is that a license really doesn’t give you any more rights than a normal Texas resident; rather it raises the standard by which you are held by, by the mere fact that you are now licensed. For example, although the license theoretically allows me to have a weapon on my person, the law still excludes me from carrying it in most places. The obvious ones are schools, government buildings, court room and airports. But private individuals and businesses can demand that you do not carry on their property and the licensee must comply.
The shooting part of the day and the actual test of the whole exercise is the most fun. The test is, again, straight forward. You shoot 50 rounds. If you take the test with a revolver than you are only allowed to carry a revolver but if you take the test with a semi-automatic than you are allowed to carry either the semi or the revolver.
The shooting part is in three phases, the first is at nine feet, the second is at 21 feet and the third is a 45 feet, shooting at a silhouette target. At each stage, the instructor taps you on the shoulder and you shoot one round, two rounds or five rounds at 2 seconds per round, depending on the instructions given to you. You must score at least 170 to pass the shooting test. If you have any proficiency with the gun, then it is not difficult to pass. My personal feeling is that the shooting test was more about your ability to safely handle a weapon, under pressure, rather than hitting center mass all of the time.
Finally, two items of special note; you should never get too comfortable carrying a gun because that leads to serious problems. If carrying becomes too comfortable than you might inadvertently commit a serious felony by going to your child’s teacher-parent conference forgetting that you have the weapon on you. Second, as the instructor stated; licensees “do not have the luxury of confrontation when carrying”. Licensees are held to a higher standard when using a gun to protect property or an individual, therefore great care is required before getting involved in any confrontation.