With all the protests and controversy surrounding changes in Texas law to the open and concealed carry, what do you need to know about the people who carry a handgun legally in Texas? ABC-7 took an in-depth look at the current law and the changes coming into effect soon, and what the requirements for concealed handgun license holders are.
Pamela Juarez, a mother of three, said she wants to take responsibility for her own safety. That’s why she went through the concealed handgun license process.
“More than anything, it was being proactive about my care and that of my children,” Juarez said. “I rely on the police force, however I need to be the one that takes care of them beforehand.”
Come Jan. 1 of 2016, Juarez, and any licensed gun holder in the state, will be able to legally carry their handguns in a holster openly anywhere they could carry concealed.
“Whether it’s here or anywhere else in the country, things happen,” said Vicente Daniel, a concealed handgun license instructor.
Daniel has been teaching CHL classes in El Paso for more than five years, and said getting the license in Texas is not like getting a driver’s license.
“(Applicants have) gone through an FBI background check, they’ve gone through a medical review for Texas, had their fingerprints done through the national database,” Daniel said.
You have to be 21 years or older to apply, or 18 and older if active duty in the military. The license requires a 4 hour class on the rights and responsibilities of carrying a firearm, including non-violent conflict resolution and interactions with law enforcement. Then an applicant must pass a 50-shot timed performance test and a 25 question written test.
Even then, there’s a lot that disqualify you from applying, like a having a recent non-violent criminal conviction, or even being late on paying your taxes.
“If you’re absolutely just avoiding responsibility,” Daniel said, “whether it’s taxes, whether it’s child support, or even school loans with the government, that’s going to impede you and not let you get a CHL.”
And if a medical database show you take prescription drugs for daily function, that can also disqualify you.
“You go before a Texas medical review board,” Daniel said. “They’re going to check that.”
In New Mexico and about half the country right now, you can openly carry a handgun without a license. But in Texas, you must have a license to carry openly in the new year or concealed right now.
Local legislators like State Senator Jose Rodriguez, a vocal opponent of the gun law changes made in the last legislative session, said that while it’s good people have to get trained, he’s against open carry and concealed carry in general.
“I just am one of those who feels that the more guns you have, the more violence we have,” Rodriguez said. “The more guns you have, the more killings take place.”
While that debate will likely continue, CHL students like Juarez argue it’s critical to know your rights and responsibilities.
“Usually everybody thinks that if you have a gun, you should just pull it out at any point,” Juarez said. “And this class is actually what taught me how to handle that. And that even if after you shoot a gun, there are still responsibilities you have to face for shooting that gun. So more than anything, it’s being responsible with guns – with handguns.”
The Jan. 1 change in the Texas handgun carry law doesn’t mean licensed owners will be able to carry openly everywhere. They’ll have to conceal their handguns while on university and college campuses. And places like schools, hospitals, nursing homes and more will remain gun free zones.
Private business owners can also choose to restrict concealed and open carry when it comes into effect. Businesses can prohibit concealed carry by displaying a sign detailed in Texas penal code section 30.06: “Trespass by holder of license to carry concealed handgun,” and a section 30.07 sign will ban open carry in the new year. Businesses will need both signs to completely prohibit the carry of handguns.
You can find more about the law and the changes coming by going to the state’s CHL website (http://txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/index.htm) and find more info about the application process (https://txapps.texas.gov/txapp/txdps/chl/) and frequently asked questions about the concealed handgun license (http://dps.texas.gov/RSD/CHL/faqs/)