Since SB60 passed in 1995 establishing the Texas “Concealed Handgun Law,” training requirements have not been updated. People applying for their first Texas Concealed Handgun License (CHL) must take a class that is at least ten hours long and not more than fifteen hours long. Renewal students must take a class that is at least four hours long and not more than six hours long. Both the ten hour initial class and the four hour renewal class include time spent on the range doing the hands-on shooting portion of the class. Thus, the amount of time spent in the classroom learning the subject matter outlined in Tex. Gov’t Code §411.188(b) varies widely depending upon how much time is spent on the range.
The amount of time a student spends on the range is determined by a number of factors including 1) class size; 2) handgun experience/proficiency level of each student; 3) range facilities/capacity; and 4) the number of students than can be on the firing line at one time. If an instructor has a small class of experienced shooters, he/she may spend as little as 20 minutes shooting the required course. If the class is large and/or consists primarily of less experienced shooters, the range portion of the course can easily take 2 hours or more. The instructor who spends only 20 minutes on the range must add an additional 1hr. and 40 minutes to his classroom presentation, while the instructor who spends 2 hours or more must cut a substantial portion of the classroom material. Since both instructors must administer the same test mandated by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, each must teach the core subject matter, yet be ready to add or remove additional material that is not crucial to the course.
HB47 addresses this long-standing problem by 1) separating the range portion of the CHL class from the classroom instruction; and 2) reducing the minimum/maximum class hours to a reasonable four to six hours. By separating the time spent on the range from classroom instruction, the size and experience level of a class does not impact the time an instructor has to spend in the classroom with his/her students. Instructors will be able to present a uniform classroom presentation regardless of class size and will no longer be required to adjust “on the fly.” This uniformity will increase the effectiveness of his/her classroom presentation which will benefit the students. A major factor in student comprehension and retention is a reduction in the fatigue factor that is inherent in a ten hour course.
Some have expressed the concern that HB47 will reduce the classroom instruction by six hours, but this is not the case. Although current law (Tex. Gov’t Code §411.188(b)) allows instructors to teach initial classes that are over ten hours long and renewal classes that exceed four hours, few instructors exceed the minimum times. This is largely due to competitive reasons as the most common reason given by Texans for not getting a CHL is “ten hours [course] is far too long.” Even if one were to teach a 12 hour initial course or a 5 hour renewal course, HB47’s impact on total class time is less than six hours for the initial class.
As previously noted, current law combines both the classroom and range portions of the course. Due to the length of the initial class, DPS requires Instructors to give their students breaks every hour. (This is currently applied to renewal classes as well.) These breaks are to be between ten and fifteen minutes long. Therefore, a ten hour class is reduced by 90 to 135 minutes spent in breaks, resulting in a class that is between 7.75 and 8.5 hours long, including the time spent on the range. It must be noted that these DPS-mandated breaks are absolutely necessary due to the fatigue factor of a ten hour course. While a four hour course must also offer periodic breaks for students, the shorter course would not require ten to fifteen minute breaks every hour. (Many seminars offer ten minute breaks every 1.5 hours.) For purposes of the examples below, a ten minute break every 1.5 hours is used for classes under the HB47 schedule and for current four hour renewal classes.
Current law – six scenarios (4 initial 10 hr. classes and 2 renewal 4 hr. classes):
10hrs – breaks (90 minutes) – 1hr. range time = 7.5 hours in classroom
10hrs – breaks (135 minutes) – 1hr. range time = 6.75 hours in classroom
10hrs – breaks (90 minutes) – 2hr. range time = 6.5 hours in classroom
10hrs – breaks (135 minutes) – 2hr. range time = 5.75 hours in classroom
4hrs – breaks (30 minutes) – 1hr. range time = 2.5 hours in classroom
4hrs – breaks (30 minutes) – 2hr. range time = 1.5 hours in classroom
Classes if HB47 passes:
4hrs – breaks (20 minutes) = 3.7 hours in classroom
The above-comparisons reveal the difference between classes under current law and as proposed pursuant to HB47 for initial classes is between 2.05 and 3.8 hours of classroom training, depending upon class size and duration of hourly breaks (ten min. or fifteen min.).
The difference in classroom time for renewal students is striking as HB47 will actually provide more time for classroom training than does current law. Currently a four hour renewal class will provide only 1.5 to 2.5 hours of classroom instruction, because range time must be included in the course. Under HB47, range time is excluded giving an instructor 3.7 hrs. in the classroom. It must be remembered that over a license holder’s lifetime, they will take only one initial class and numerous renewal classes, so HB47 results in an overall increase in the amount of training a licensee will receive.
Some have expressed concern that the subject matter mandated by Tex. Gov’t Code §411.188(b) cannot be taught in only four to six 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 fifteen 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, since the current four hour renewal classes include the time spent on the range for the shooting portion of the class, instructors have been very successfully teaching the state-mandated subjects in less than four hours.
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. Fifteen years of experience with four hour classes (including range time) proves that reducing the initial class from an unnecessarily long ten hours to four to six hours can be done without any negative impact on public safety.
Some CHL instructors have complained that reducing the initial class from ten hours will have a detrimental impact on their revenue, because they cannot charge as much for shorter 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 requirements possible when issuing a Texas Concealed Handgun License. Fifteen 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 Texans and CHL instructors alike.