Yesterday I took the all-day course to qualify for a concealed handgun license, or CHL, also known as bypass into the Capitol. The course ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and concluded at a shooting range in the hills northwest of Austin. Our group consisted mostly of lobbyists, who were the first to discover the value of having a CHL.
The day consisted of a lecture by our instructor, who I will call Joe, about the laws pertaining to CHLs, interspersed with his observations. He read from a packet that each of the ten members of the class had. Joe started with the eligibility requirements. You must have a valid ID, be a U.S. citizen, be at least 21 years old, can’t have a felony conviction or be a fugitive from justice or be chemically dependent, and you must not have a psychiatric disorder that would make you unable to exercise sound judgment about the proper use and storage of a hand gun. Nor can you have been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces, or be delinquent in making child support payments or state or local taxes or be in default of an education loan, or be subject to a protective or restraining order. I found it particularly interesting that the CHL process becomes a collection point for child support and back taxes. In the afternoon, we would be tested over all this information.
Joe read out loud the material we were supposed to know: the length of a license (four years), how to renew your license (take another course), possible restrictions (employers may prohibit CHL holders from carrying on the job and from keeping a firearm in his car on the premises at their workplace, when a license can be suspended (for example, if you fail to submit a change of address when you move).
So far, it’s all been boilerplate. But then we learned that it is a crime to carry a weapon on his person if he is not on his own premises, or inside a motor vehicle that he owns or that is under his control. Further, it is a crime to have a weapon in your car that is in plain view. You can cover it with a jacket, but if you display it in plain sight, it is considered to be a threat.
You can carry a concealed handgun inside a vehicle or in route to your vehicle but it must be concealed in the car. Joe recommended attaching a lock box in the trunk.
CHL holders cannot carry a weapon onto the premises of a public or private school, into a passenger transportation vehicle, or a polling place on election days, or into a government court, or a race track, or the secured areas of an airport.
You can’t exhibit a firearm in a school parking lot or any other area that is school property.
You can’t carry a handgun that intentionally is not concealed, or on the premises of a building that derives 51% or more or its income from alcoholic beverages sold for on-premises consumption.
Other no-nos: a sporting event (high school, college, or pro), correctional facility, hospital or nursing home, amusement park, church or other place of worship, or governmental meeting place, or hospital or nursing home. As someone who has never liked right-to-carry, I was surprised to find out how many restrictions there are.
Criminal trespass: carrying a concealed handgun on the property of another if entry is forbidden or remaining on the property is forbidden.
(The license holder must receive either oral or written notice from the owner.)
The next section is about making a firearm accessible to a child. A person commits an offense if a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm and the person failed to secure the firearm, or left it in a place where the child could gain access. Gun dealers must display a warning to customers that it is unlawful to store unsecured firearms in a place where children can obtain access.
The prohibition against allowing a person to possess a firearm in a place that sells alcoholic beverages does not apply unless the business is a “51% business” (presumably a bar or tavern).
State law does not authorize the seizure or confiscation of any firearm or ammunition from a person who is lawfully possessing or carrying the firearm or ammunition.
The “castle doctrine” removes the requirement to retreat before using force on someone who enters your home, vehicle, or workplace. The force used still must be justified. Our instructor warned us to “exercise caution.” How do you justify using force? That is a question I hope I never have to answer.
The next section was on non-violent dispute resolution. Our instructor urged us not to use rash words. Don’t focus on anger, blame, accusations, and harsh words. Listen to what is said, listen to the other person. This was the only touchy-feely part all day. We learned about parent-adult-child “ego states.” CHL holders should be in their “adult states” in a confrontation. The idea is to avoid an escalation of tensions. Not to be polite. But because the other fellow might be carrying too.)
We have now reached the guts of the course: the use of force.
Pretty early in the lesson Joe read us part of a speech from Theodore Roosevelt (01/24/1918): “Do not get into a fight if you can possibly avoid it. If you get in, see it through. Don’t hit if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting, but never hit soft. Don’t hit at all if you can help it. Don’t hit a man if you can possibly avoid it. But it you do hit him, put him to sleep.” Joe is not the kind of person who advocates trying to avoid a fight. “The worst thing you can do,” he told us, “is try to walk away. We know the statistics. 82% of those who disengage die. They get shot or stabbed in the back.”
The Roosevelt speech was on page 12 of our materials. The section on deadly force began on page 50. The course got real serious here. Each of us had to contemplate that this little game we were playing in order to get into the Capitol could turn into a matter of life and death.
* Are you capable of using force, or even deadly force, for self-protection?
This question was followed by a statement:
Fact: regardless of who you are, what you are, what you know, or how good you are, if you are not mentally prepared, chances of winning are decreased.” Winning means stopping the other person from commiting a hostile act before he stops you.
* Trying to make a decision when faced with reality can be fatal for YOU!
Fact: It is better to have a plan and not need it, than not to have one and need it.
OBJECTIVES of FORCE and Deadly Force
More material in boxes:
Force - power, violence, or pressure directed against a person or thing. To compel by physical means or by legal requirement.
Resistance that in its actions alone will not cause death or serious bodily harm
Non-Lethal Force - force not known to cause serious bodily injury and/or death.
Deadly Force (Lethal)
Force that is intended or known by the actor to cause, or in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
Deadly force is to be used as a means of last resort. when all other means have failed and the fear for the loss of your life is immediate.
The objective of Force/Deadly Force is to STOP, CONTROL, or NEUTRALIZE the other so as to eliminate the apprehension of a fear for life.
More Legal Definitions:
* Legal and Necessary Force: The minimum amount of lawful aggression sufficient for self-protection or protection of a third person.
* Reasonable Force: force that is not excessive and that is appropriate for protecting oneself or property.
* There is no single solution for all situations. The presence of a gun may actually create more problems than it is intended to solve. Shooting “to kill” indicates premeditated intent to inflict death or serious bodily injury on another regardless of their intent and/or their actions being lawful. Shooting “to kill” is never an option for a law abiding person.
* Shooting “to stop” is the intent to reduce or eliminate the fear you have of death or serious bodily injury based on the other person’s unlawful use of deadly force against you. Shooting to stop, while it may result in the other person’s death, lacks the intent to kill.
* * * *
I want to move on to Joe’s comments and advice.
* Don’t tell someone that you’re armed. It’s a threat, and you can be charged with a crime. Don’t say, “You need to be aware that I’m packing.”
* If you pull your gun, use it. You’re better off to shoot someone. It proves that you were in fear of your life.
* Don’t ever use the word “kill.” Don’t call 911 and say, “I’ve just killed an intruder.” The cops will take you down. Kill indicates an intent. Say that you “shot” an intruder.
What to shoot:
1. Pelvic bone. It’s the support structure. A hit and the whole structure collapses.
2. Center mass. The ribs become shrapnel inside the body.
3. Two front teeth.
Just go up the line, bang, bang, bang.
Bullet selection. (I was totally lost here. The Winchester “black talon.” The bullet had to be banned.) Swat load, explodes on impact.
Always show your CHL to the DPS. It’s a great way to get out of tickets. They love us. But it won’t work with small-town cops.
Why CHL holders aren’t public: Originally they were, name and address, but if people know somebody has a CHL, robbers can assume that you keep other weapons there. You’re a target.
Joe passed around a sheet of crime statistics. In 2007, Texas had 61,260 felony convictions. Only 160 of these convictions were CHL holders.
“An armed society is a polite society. Not knowing who is armed and who is not is a great deterrent.”
“The castle doctrine is law enforcement admitting the truth. They can’t protect us. They’re a placebo. You have to protect yourself.”
“In a car accident, use your verbal skills…I can’t stand teaching that crap.”
“The aggressor is one step ahead of you.”
On the aftermath of a shooting: “I myself, if I were put in that situation, I could eat a ham sandwich while they were dying.”
Then we took the written test on what we had learned and headed for the range.
* * * *
I have fired shotguns – I like skeet shooting – but I had never fired a handgun. Only three of the ten members of the class did not have their own guns. You need to qualify using a semi-automatic weapon. If you qualify with a revolver, you cannot carry a semi-automatic. I had trouble with a Luger. My right thumb couldn’t manipulate the catch that cocked the gun. I also had trouble loading the bullets into the clip, having never done it before; eventually I got the hang of it. But when I stepped up to the practice stall, I was just completely relaxed. I was using a beretta, and it felt light and natural in my hand. We were using a circle target for practice, and I put the first two in the ring just under the bull’s eye. I had bought my first pair of prescription glasses in years for the occasion, and after relying on junky drugstore reading glasses for years, I felt as if I could see for miles. The noise was terrific from all the weapons, but we had plastic earmuffs. It took me awhile to grasp the rules of the range, when to step away from the firing area, but by the time the first five of our class had completed their shooting, I was ready to go. This time the target was a dark green silhouette of a human torso, waist up, with a light green heart. You shoot fifty rounds from three yards, fifty more from seven yards, and I think it was forty more from fifteen yards. Joe gave commands: Load two rounds. Load five rounds. Load five rounds. And so on. The max score is 250. I scored 236. Passing is 175. Not bad. I don’t know whether I will ever own a handgun, much less carry one, but I will do more recreational shooting. And I won’t be standing in line at the Capitol.