By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 08/31/13 – Ambitious plans to let Texans openly carry handguns throughout the state — and to let college students carry concealed handguns on campus — fell by the wayside during the legislative session earlier this year.
But lawmakers pushed through several less far-reaching measures, giving Texas gun owners more freedoms — shrinking the required training time for those seeking concealed handgun licenses, letting CHL holders leave their weapons in parked vehicles on college campuses, even letting Texans renew those licenses online without taking a renewal class.
“It’s a mixed bag,” said Curtis Van Liew, a concealed handgun license instructor who lives in Watauga.
A number of gun proposals that passed the legislature and were signed by Gov. Rick Perry become law Sunday.
Critics say they aren’t sure lawmakers made any headway with the new laws.
“I don’t know that any of the laws made us safer,” said Marsha McCartney, a spokeswoman for the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “But they made it easier for people who have concealed handguns. I guess that was the goal.”
Some of the gun-related laws that go into effect today include:
Texans seeking a concealed handgun license won’t have to spend as long in the classroom as their predecessors. Training time generally will drop to between four and six hours, from the current 10 to 15 hour requirement. SB 864
“Fifteen hours is too long, but with passage of this bill I will quickly be getting my CHL,” said state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and author of the measure.
Van Liew said he isn’t convinced this is a good idea.
“I don’t think you can cover everything you need to cover in 10 hours, much less four to six,” he said. “But I think there will be a big influx of students once the new laws go into effect, especially with less training time required.”
Texas CHL holders may now store their handguns in their locked vehicles parked on college campuses. “This is a simple matter of fairness,” said state Sen. Glen Hegar, R-Katy. “Why should everyone but the student have the right to protect themself as they travel to and from campus?” SB 1907
Hotels and motels would have to give advance notice if they prohibit firearms at their facilities. Apparently some travelers were confused about where they could carry their concealed weapons because gun policies are not necessarily detailed in a hotel’s transaction terms or conditions. This measure requires hotels officials to make their CHL policy obvious to hotel guests, putting it on their reservation website and informing customers over the telephone. HB 333
Texans have always been responsible for covering up their concealed handguns and now there are new protections if they accidentally display their weapon. The wording changes to make it an offense if a CHL holder intentionally displays a handgun “in plain view of another person in a public place.” SB 299
Reducing some renewal fees: This measure drops the cost of CHL renewal fees to $25 for reserve peace officers and honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. military — and correctional officers who work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The normal renewal cost is $70. HB 485
Eliminating continuing education courses: Texans with concealed handgun licenses have long had to take a continuing education class to renew their licenses. No more. Now, the permit holder has only to submit a renewal application and payment to the state — and sign “an informational form that describes state law regarding the use of deadly force.” Licenses would still have to be renewed every five years. HB 48
“Renewal students are the scariest students — about half haven’t shot their handguns in five years,” Van Liew said. “Now they won’t have any more training? It’s a little unnerving.”
Making fingerprints: When applying for a CHL, applicants must submit two complete sets of copies of their fingerprints. But that can be hard for those who live in rural areas, far from an approved facility. Now the DPS must come up with a system for those who live in smaller Texas counties and not within 25 miles of a facility that can process electronic or digital fingerprints. HB 698
No matter what the changes, Van Liew said it’s important for Texans to legally be able to protect themselves.
“The police can’t be everywhere you need them to be at all times,” he said. “It’s up to individuals to protect themselves.”
Anna Tinsley; 817-390-7610