Lawmakers willing to temper their ideological zeal with some old-fashioned reason should — if the idea makes it that far — reject any legislation gutting the process Texas now has for issuing licenses to carry handguns.

As we reported last week in Political Buzz, the Texas House Freedom Caucus seems to be advocating for a fundamental change in that process, which is a bad idea.

“Law-abiding Texans shouldn’t have to pay a fee or take a test to exercise their constitutional rights,” Mayes Middleton, our new state representative, said during a recent news conference at which the caucus outlined its priorities. Middleton was referring to the Second Amendment right to own and bear arms, and the only gun-related thing Texans have to pay fees and pass tests for is a license to carry a handgun.

The ultra-orthodox among Second Amendment purists like to argue that any government interest in, much less action about, owning and bearing firearms is onerous and therefore unconstitutional.

The only place that argument can breathe, though, is in the thick air of political rhetoric meant to excite a base.

The fact is that Texas has a model system for issuing handgun licenses. It’s neither cost prohibitive nor overly burdensome. Applicants have to pass a criminal background check, sit through about six hours of classroom instruction, pass a multiple choice test and demonstrate very basic competence with a handgun.

The whole show might cost $150, probably less, when it’s all said and done.

The Texas method probably has done more to preserve than to undermine the Second Amendment and benefits people wanting to carry handguns as much or more as it benefits the public at large.

Back in the 1990s when Jerry Patterson, who at the time was a state senator, began pushing legislation allowing Texans to carry concealed handguns, opponents argued it would cause a wave of gun violence, a return to the Wild West, make the gutters run with blood.

None of which happened. The instances of handgun license-holders using their weapons at all have been pretty rare; instances of licensees using their weapons illegally have been rarer still.

That fact is at least in part, probably in large part, because Texas has a system for ensuring it issues licenses only to those law-abiding people Middleton was talking about.

The licensing process also might serve to weed out people who want to carry a weapon for all the wrong reasons, such as mistaking it for a fashion accessory, a status symbol or a totem against feelings of inadequacy.

The system is more objective than those employed in some states as well. In many states, all you need to get a handgun license is a form signed by a chief of police or a county sheriff. If you’re a chum of the chief, you get one. If not, because you vote for the wrong political party perhaps, you don’t. In Texas, if you can pass through the hoops, you get the license.

And the system mainly serves people who think they want to carry a handgun, by informing them of things they most certainly need to know before doing that.

Most of the instruction and testing for handgun licenses covers what the Texas penal code has to say about the use of deadly force; most importantly what separates the legal from the illegal use of deadly force. Hardly any civilian who has not been through the state’s required instruction could cite two facts about the laws on deadly force, and getting it wrong can send a person to prison for a long time.

Better that they make the mistake first on a multiple-choice test.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

(17) comments

Emile Pope

It's not as if they're trying to vote or something...

George Croix

I'll get hate mail, which will worry me as much as it usually does, but I happen to agree in principal with Michael on this one.
Yes, we DO have a Constitutional right to bear arms.....that it IS an individual right HAS been upheld by SCOTUS.
BUT, the 'state', meaning a lawfully appointed government, has also been upheld in the placement of REALISTIC, WORTHWHILE restrictions on constitutional rights.
I happen to agree that the LTC (License to Carry) conditions are NOT onerous.
If nothing else, all of us could use 150 bucks worth of legal education on basic laws related to firearms, because God Forbid you shoot one at somebody when you are not legally entitled to do so, you WILL be needing a lawyer...fact is, you will need one if you ARE justified in shooting, but you will be on solid ground having known you were.
Plus (here comes the hate mail again), to me, carrying a firearm places a HUGE burden on the person doing so to be on their best behavior, to walk away from trouble when appropriate, and, if unavoidable, to be ABLE TO USE WELL that carried weapon. I have witnessed people who couldn't fire a shot and hit the inside of a barn while standing IN the barn, and, imo...IMO....such as those people have ZERO business carrying a firearm in and among the general population.
Train up, then arm in front of the cart....

Now, that aside, a question for Michael, and a whole lotta other folks who will agree with this article, as it relates to another issue:
Quote from Michael's article, about getting an LTC:
"It’s neither cost prohibitive nor overly burdensome."
So, if 150 bucks and 6 hrs of classroom study and a proficiency test and fingerprinting and a criminal background checks and all that's required to EXERCISE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT is OK, is NOT burdensome. then why the heck is it an issue of 'disenfranchisement' and not OK to require voter ID, which costs NOTHING, requires NO background check, no proficiency nor even a smidgen of knowledge about the government being voted for, and which will be BROUGHT TO YOU if you are unable to go yourself????????

The answer, my friend, ain't blowing in the wind...

Jim Forsythe

George, I agree with you about a person needs to know how to use a gun before having the privilege of carrying one.
I was reading about other states requirements and found this.
"Only six states require both residents and concealed carriers visiting from out of state to undergo live-fire training. They are Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Minnesota."
"States recognize other states’ concealed-carry permits through two mechanisms: “Recognition” agreements, in which a state honors another state’s permit, are nonreciprocal. And “reciprocity” agreements, which describe a mutual agreement between states to honor each other’s permits. Through these too types of agreements, 44 states allow people to carry a concealed handgun within their borders without having been required to show that they know how to properly fire one."
My Nephew was a hunting guide, and said that a lot of people have no idea about gun safety. That's one of the reasons that he is no longer a guide. Some had never fired a gun before they came to hunt.

George Croix

Jim, for years I averaged 300 rounds per week of center fire handgun shooting and about 50 of CF long gun. And that is NOTHING compared to what the folks who are really at the high levels do. Nothing.
I would say I reached the level of pretty darn good back then, but that's all.
Have slowed down for various reasons, and now average that round count only about every 3 months, but supplement with rimfire practice. I'd rate myself only above average now. My criteria for that is 50 rounds of handgun all inside a 6" circle at 21' at a 2 rounds per second fire rate. Not even close to very good - just above average.
If funds are limited, better for anyone to spend less on the gun, and more on ammo, and practice practice practice until comfortable and able to confidently send a round where it should go at a distance one can feel confident at.
Even that is a LOT more than the basic LTC proficiency testing, which is why it's basic. NOT requiring SOME certification of ability to at least use the firearm in it's most basic way before carrying it amongst the public to supposedly save one's own life in areas where others will be is, imo again, not good. The first sign of a problem is if the person does not even know how to handle and load their own weapon without assistance, or has to BORROW one to test with.
We who carry have a responsibility to be BETTER than just low end and that is why I support the current standards.
I'd say this...if anyone new to shooting buys a firearm and fires it LESS than 50 rounds a year..that's just one typical box....the minimum for the LTC test...they are, absent genetics from Annie Oakley or Bill Jordan, relying on too much TV watching and not enough self-preparation....
And then, there's the subject of mindset, and pressure, and......

Your Nephew was smart...anybody stupid enough to spend thousands of bucks on a guided hunt and show up having never even shot is too stupid to be around.....

All THAT aside, I'd like to see 50 states reciprocity....
And, before I'm totally deaf, 50 state legal suppressor use.
But, as our mutual associate Gary S. says, that's a subject for another day...[beam][beam][beam]

Don Schlessinger

George, no doubt you're more knowledgeable than the rest of us. Tell me, is a pistol really more accurate when firing with the grip horizontal than in the vertical position? You know, like we see on TV[beam][beam][beam][beam]

George Croix

I very, very, VERY seriously doubt more...just retired so some time to play in between Honey-Do assignments.....I'd be happy at just somewhere in the ballpark.....

Don, seeing that 'method' used certainly gives a more 'accurate' indication of the smarts level of the shooter...... [rolleyes][whistling]
So, yeah, sorta, in a roundabout totally different way...[beam][beam]

Or, maybe they just LIKE getting hit on top of the head with ejected hot brass!
Or, maybe they're TRYING to get some 'smokestacks', thinking it's something else....... [beam][beam][beam][beam]
Can't fix that.....

Jim Forsythe

George, some spent big, big bucks as they would fly in from places like Japan and he would take them to buy a rifle and all the stuff they needed. As they could not go back home with the rifle, they would just leave it. Most would buy the most expensive gear.

You are right, if one is going to use a gun, practice is more important than anything else.
What's your take on a laser for a handgun?

Michael Byrd

Excellent comments and reasoning. I too am an avid shooter very similar as you have described yourself. I have pondered this issue since it arose and have found myself in agreement with requiring the LTC. I would like to add that I do not believe limited restrictions are inconsistent with the views of our founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address said, “A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” He also stated… “… Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our own will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual”. Simply put, I believe that the founders felt we should be able to just about anything in the pursuit of life as long as we did not to harm to others, which is what the LTC training is intended prevent.

George Croix

Jim, Re-thinking that Nephew situation, in light of the info you added, I'll rescind the 'stupid' label for people showing up to hunt without ever having shot BUT ONLY IF they come from places where they cannot own firearms, and if they have the money and desire to shoot, and IF they REALLY listen and do exactly what Nephew or any other authority figure tells them, and IF they get to camp a couple days early so they can at least get some safety instruction and at least fire the darn thing, and IF the game being hunted is non-dangerous and CLOSE and IF the guide ALSO is armed and can take the collection shot for the guy if need be. Sux to have no Second Amendment, and if the guy is otherwise an OK person and wants to blow his money, let him.
Absent all...all... such limiting conditions, that client should, imo, do a photography hunt....
There are no such excuses for this country, although the People's Republic of California and the latest bunch of 'progressives' in Congress are doing their best to make them.....

Laser sighting aids? My take is dependent on the situation. And strictly IMO....
First is that in daylight, even if it's a green one which IS better than red in daylight, they're less useful than you'd think because while you're looking for the darn dot you could have already had a sight picture. BUT, a LOT of people swear by them... I'm not sure that civilians who practice would see a lot of benefit....I sold the only two weapon mountable lasers I ever owned...spent too much time looking rather than aiming then shooting....but it's a PERSONAL choice.
I DO THINK they could be good for people with a disability that limited arm movement, allowing some hope for some accuracy in firing at closer ranges, AND for anyone expecting to be placed in awkward positions while having to fire at a target they can't line up regular sights on.
As intimidation, they certainly can do that, but only a fool points a loaded weapon at another human being intending to do nothing but intimidate them....imo again....hesitation kills the hesitant....
My personal thought is that in a home defense encounter, I want to SEE CLEARLY what I'm aiming at so use a really, really good Surefire 600 lumen flashlight...which also kills the other guy's night vision, if not all of his vision.....
Besides, I don't like the idea that the laser in dim light or dark has a nice beam pointing right back at the guy holding the weapon it's on just as much as it points at Bad Guy. And if you decide to carry one concealed, they also require bulkier holsters for carry, and also present more things to get hung up on a shirt or coat or your BVD elastic......or, worse......[sad][wink][beam]
I use XS Sights 24/7 Big Dot tritiums for a defensive weapon, because target accuracy is less important to me than good accuracy with speed of sight picture acquisition, and no edges to get hung up. Good day or night, imo......but only about a 12 year useful life....and $$$. Funerals are considerably more expensive, though......
Like choosing ice cream flavors, choice of firearms hardware is very personal taste specific....

Claudia Burnam

Great comments and opinion Mr. Croix! E G Wiley

Gary Scoggin

George, I agree with completely when it comes to licensing. Today’s regulations are far from onerous and unreasonable. (I also get your point about voting, but that’s a conversation for another day.)

I do wish Mayes would spend more time on education and healthcare and not on side trips like this issue.

George Croix

It's a SERIOUS issue, Gary, pitting a Constitutional Right against the right of someone else to limit that right. But to me the issues of proficiency testing (which as required for LTC licensing is very basic....) and at least some exposure to the law/rules is where the legitimate interest of the State comes in for LTC.
LTC holders are as a group more law-abiding than the population in general, and the 'blood in the streets' silliness has been long proven bull-o-knee, BUT owning a firearm is not any different than owning a fire extinguisher...unless you know how to use it, and when to use it, you'll just make a bad situation worse.
It's just another in a long list of Life's Exceptions where nothing is always clear or always fits in all circumstances.

The other two issues you mentioned are NEVER going to be settled down until we get some control over who has access to them, so essentially it's throwing punches at the wind.

That 'conversation for another day'? You're right, as it's already in the next day, and no reply to the question.....
I suspect it will be just like "When are you going to finish that job?", and the answer is "Tomorrow".....and it's the same answer EACH 'tomorrow'.....

George Croix

Wayne Holt

Surprised by the lack of hate mail? I agree with you, there are limits to any freedom when other important considerations come into play and having folks with no familiarity with firearms start packing heat in public is a really, really bad idea. I do not feel unduly burdened complying with LTC laws and have greatly benefited from the education and training regarding avoidance of situations that could result in having to use a handgun.

Many folks have no idea about safe handling, so they either are very dangerous to be around...or they have a mental block that prohibits them from thinking of guns as a tool rather than a totem object to fear and vilify. There is even more woeful ignorance about what is lawful self-defense with a gun. You are right, you better be sure you know the law and not what you think the law is because you could wind up a lot poorer and maybe speaking to loved ones through a thick glass if you're wrong.

George Croix

You'd be surprised by the stuff that comes directly to me....
When you're the only one in the book you're easy to find.....
I look upon such the same way I look at that little white speck on top of chicken, too, is chicken poop.....[beam][beam][beam]

Normally I'm not much of a walk-away type person, so the responsibilities of CHL and now LTC have created additional learning and adaptation opportunities that have proven beneficial if sometimes lumpy in the throat. Maturity is not always what we expect it to be.
Backing away is not the same as backing down.....and I figure in a first-letter-of-the-alphabet hole contest, it's better for the other guy to win......[beam][beam][beam][beam][beam]

William Cawthon

It took the murders of 23 people in Killeen, Texas and the refusal of one very determined woman to take Ann Richards' "No" for an answer to end more than 120 years of the most severe restrictions on carrying a handgun of any state in the union.

Richards wouldn't even allow a referendum on the issue.

There are currently 14 states with constitutional carry. In fact, according to the FBI, the four states with the lowest homicide rates in 2017 were all constitutional carry states.

Since 1999, California has enacted every gun control law that has caught their fancy. Permits to carry are virtually impossible to get in several California counties. The homicide rate has gone down.

Arizona enacted constitutional carry in 2010 and its homicide rate went down. The uncomfortable truth is that the rate fell more in Arizona.

In addition to the 14 constitutional carry states (soon to be 15 when the Oklahoma senate passes it this week), there are 17 states that permit the open carry of a handgun without a permit.

Whether a person takes a test or not, they are still responsible for complying with every single gun law in the state. You can try the ignorance excuse on the judge but I hope he or she is your sibling, because no other judge is going to accept it.

Since the last session of the legislature, it has been legal to carry a sword in Texas. It has also been legal for the holder of a LTC to carry openly.

The only items left in Texas Penal Code 46.02 are handguns and clubs.

So, yes, it is time to finally dump the last vestiges of a Jim Crow law passed in the Reconstruction Era and very selectively enforced for almost its entire history.

William Cawthon

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