A bill has been prefiled for the 2013 Texas legislative session that seeks to reduce the minimum required class hours to obtain a Texas Concealed Handgun License (“CHL”) for the first time. Current law requires these initial classes to be at least ten hours and no more than fifteen hours long. Renewal classes must be between four hours and six hours long. Both the four hour and ten hour minimums include the time spent on the range for the shooting portion of the class.
If it passes, HB 47 will reduce the class time for an initial license to four hours, excluding the time spent on the range. Public support for this change seems to be strong and as of the writing of this article, there seems to be no significant opposition in the Texas legislature. Few people have spoken against the change and their opposition is unwarranted.
That few people opposing HB 47 express concern that the material cannot be taught in only four hours. Some even go so far as to argue that reducing class hours will have a detrimental effect on public safety. Thankfully, people with these concerns can rest easy; Texas CHL instructors have been teaching the material in four hours for over fourteen years now.
Although the minimum time required for a CHL renewal class is four hours, the Texas Dept. of Public Safety requires instructors to administer the same test to renewal students as is given to initial students taking a ten hour class. Since instructors have to administer the same test to new and renewal students, they have been teaching all of the statutorily-required subjects in four hours since 1998. (The first CHL’s issued in 1996 were only good for two years, meaning the renewal process started in 1998.) In fact, the current four hour renewal classes include the time spent on the range for the shooting portion of the class. HB 47 establishes a four hour class for new and renewal students, but this does not include the time spent on the range. So HB 47 and actually provides more time for classroom instruction, than is currently available for renewal students.
Unlike many states, the Texas legislature wisely chose to specify the specific subject matter that must be taught in Texas CHL classes. Those of us who have been involved in passing the initial CHL statute in 1995 and the numerous improvements made in virtually every Texas legislative session since then, knew from the beginning that the material could be taught in far less than the ten hours mandated for an initial class. Nevertheless, it was necessary to include time limits to prevent regulatory authorities from requiring ridiculously long classes running anywhere from two days to two weeks long.
Since instructors have been teaching the statutorily-mandated material to renewal students in less than four hours (remember, range time is currently included in the four hour classes), they obviously must add six hours of filler when teaching the ten hour initial class. Depending upon the competency of individual instructors, some of the six hours of material added as filler may be excellent, but it is unnecessary to meet the legislative goal of teaching the mandated subject matter. Forcing Texas gun owners to sit through a ten hour class to learn the same material that is taught in four hours to renewal students 1) is unnecessarily time consuming; 2) inflates the cost of obtaining an initial CHL; 3) increases student fatigue that hinders learning and retention; and 4) encourages Texans to obtain concealed carry licenses from other states with shorter class requirements.
Those who have expressed safety concerns can rest easy as well. As previously noted, Texas CHL holders have been taking four hour classes since 1998 and over that time period they have garnered a track record that is nothing short of amazing. Based upon data published by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety and census data, Texas CHL’s are fifteen times less likely to commit a crime than is the general public in Texas. This track record is far better than that established by Texas peace officers. Fourteen years of experience with four hour classes proves that reducing the initial class from an unnecessarily long ten hours to four hours can be done without any negative impact on public safety.
Some CHL instructors have complained that reducing the initial class from ten hours to four hours will have a detrimental impact on their revenue, because they cannot charge as much for four hour classes as they charge for ten hour classes. There are two problems with this argument. First, we are dealing with a constitutional right so the state is obliged to use the least restrictive methods possible when granting the Texas Concealed Handgun License. Fourteen years experience with four hour classes proves that ten hour classes do not meet that obligation. Secondly, it is highly likely that many more Texans will obtain a CHL when their investment in terms of time as well as money is significantly reduced. This is a win-win for Texas gun owners and CHL instructors alike.
Ten hour initial classes are an unnecessary burden on Texas gun owners. Representative Flynn deserves our support in our heart-felt thanks for introducing this much needed legislation. Let your Representative and your Senator know that you support HB 47 and you want them to do so as well.