More Americans are buying handguns than at any time in history at the same time Texas has done away with the need for any training, licensing or instruction to carry a pistol in public.
According to FBI statistics there were 1.73 million firearm background checks in Texas last year, resulting in the sale through licensed dealers of 1.34 million firearms. The background checks were the most in one year since the bureau started tracking them in 1998.
Yet even though the state seems to be awash in guns, on Sept. 1 House Bill 1927 went into effect, establishing so-called constitutional or permitless carry. This law enables anyone 21 or older and not otherwise prohibited to go about in public carrying a handgun – openly or concealed – no training or license required.
The Texas Department of Public Safety continues to offer its License to Carry program, although for the moment instructors say permitless carry has largely killed interest in the course.
“In every state when these laws go into effect there is a notable and immediate decline in interest in taking a class and obtaining a permit,” said Jacob Paulsen, the Denver based president of ConcealedCarry.com.
“In 2021 we have seen five states enact Constitutional Carry laws. Texas will be the last to go into effect of those five. That brings the total to 21,” said Paulson, whose company has 40 firearm instructor affiliates in 20 states, including Texas’ largest cities.
Since training and instruction are no longer required, it has left some instructors wondering whether the State of Texas will even continue to offer its License to Carry program. For now, it looks like the program will continue, albeit with fewer takers.
The legislature has instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety to keep tabs on interest in the program and to report back regularly with updates.
The legislature also mandated the DPS to create an online, easy-to-follow, free informational program to acquaint those interested with the do’s and don’ts of packing a handgun.
DPS spokeswoman Ericka Miller in an email said the department is working on it “and the free online courses will be available soon.”
Miller also said, “The department has received questions regarding eligibility to carry without a permit under the new law; however, because each individual’s circumstances will vary greatly, we are unable to answer these questions.
“The department encourages any individuals with questions on permitless carry to become familiar with the requirements under the bill and consult their legal counsel for guidance.” Right.
There are about 15 places where, licensed or not, the carrying of handguns is prohibited. Carrying in some of those forbidden places, like bars and schools, could result in felony charges.
The DPS, in fact, is trying hard to encourage instructors to continue offering the Texas course, and they make sure instructors are aware of seven benefits for those getting the Texas license.
For openers, the DPS says people who have the license are not required to submit to a federal background check when buying a firearm in Texas. They say there is a backlog on background checks and getting approval for a purchase may result in a delay for those that don’t have a license.
The DPS also notes that the Texas License to Carry is recognized as a concealed handgun license in 32 other states.
Miller, in her email, also noted that some businesses are expected to prohibit those without a license from carrying in their establishments, while allowing those with a license to carry.
Miller noted that a license will be required to carry on university campuses.
And she said that “license holders have protections to the accidental carrying of handguns in the secured area of an airport not available to the unlicensed carrier.”
Also the license is a designated document for voter ID.
And the license must be accepted by most businesses as a valid form of personal identification.
Miller also wrote that “License holders can carry handguns in governmental open meetings; unlicensed carry is prohibited.”
So what’s the future look like for those who would carry a handgun without any training or instruction?
Paulson with ConcealedCarry.com says that what he has seen in other states is that “constitutional carry has a tendency to attract more people to handguns for defensive use. And after a short time of carrying a gun without a permit, a large number of people determine that the legal and educational benefits of obtaining a permit justify taking a class and obtaining that permit.
“Generally, our experience has been that after a short period of time demand from the public returns; maybe not to previous levels but often very close to previous levels,” he said.