In the Texas Constitution, Article 1, Section 23, the Texas Constitution, under the Texas Bill of Rights, grants every Texas citizen the right to own and use firearms; “Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”(Texas Constitution 1876, art.1, sec. 23) Over the years, the Texas Government has provided quite lenient control over the firearms it’s citizens can obtain and the process in which they obtain guns. The requirements needed to obtain a gun permit are: the minimum age of 21, no previous, recent, or current record of conviction, no history of psychological illness, and no dependency on drugs or alcohol (TXDPS 2018, 5-7). A recent House Bill, House Bill 3784, is adding an additional requirement for obtaining a gun permit. Though, a gun permit is not needed to buy firearms, like handguns, shotguns and rifles, the license is primarily to be able to openly carry a firearm in most public places (NRA 2014).
The right to openly carry firearms has become a controversial topic among the citizens of Texas. People question what the need to carry a gun with you in public is and are afraid of the issues that may occur if it falls into the hands of someone who is uneducated in utilizing and storing the weapon when in public. Since January 1, 2016, under House Bill 910, gun owners in Texas could apply for a License to Carry (LTC) in which they are allowed to openly carry their weapons in public, on their belts and/or in a holster (HB910 2015). The Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate, on June 15, 2017, passed a house bill, House Bill 3784, in which those who wish to obtain a license to carry must take an educative course regarding the laws of guns and how to store, utilize, and maintain the lethal weapon (Legiscan, 2018). This law will prove to be reassuring and very helpful when it comes down to these carriers knowing how to properly use their gun in case of an emergency because this course will ensure everyone is educated and knowledgeable of how to properly store, operate, and maintain a firearm.
House Bill 3784 was first introduced by Representatives Justin Holland, Philip King, Four Price, and John Wray on March 9th, 2017 with the purpose of introducing the requirement of a proficiency course when applying for a License to Carry. The bill then underwent minor changes on April 23rd, 2017 via the committee substitute, who revised and edited the bill to add the online aspect of the course. The committee added a section that added a version of the proficiency course online, which is to be taught by an “approved online course provider;” other changes are regarding the online version of the course and how it is to be taught in the online course. The House Bill then becomes engrossed, occurred on May 5th, 2017, which is the stage in which the bill was agreed upon within the chamber in which it was originally filed, in this case being the House of Representatives, with the revisions of the committee substitute. The bill then undergoes another committee substitute, which happened on May 18th, 2017, in which the committee voted in favor of the bill (9-0). The bill is then enrolled and is signed by the officers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, this transpired on May 27, 2017. The Texas Governor signed the bill on June 15, 2017; the law was to be enacted starting on September 1st, 2017 (Legiscan, 2018).
The main aspect of this bill is to introduce a required course in order to obtain a license to openly carry a weapon. This two-part course will require in-class or online instruction as well as range instruction; this will help ensure that the applicant has proficient knowledge and skill about the laws on firearms and how to manage, maintain, store, and use a firearm when needed. Both parts of this course are to be taught by approved and certified instructors who will administer a proficiency exam to determine if an applicant will be able to acquire a license. This examination will have two parts to it: a written section, where the applicant must discuss gun laws, safety, resolution without weapons, and the storage of firearms, and a demonstration section where the applicant must properly utilize a firearm while practicing safety precautions while handling a gun. As for the online version of the examination, the instructor may administer the written section of the exam online and the applicant must complete no less than one hour and no more than two hours of range instruction before they are allowed to take the demonstration section of the examination. Those with experience with firearms, such as servicemen and servicewomen who are serving or served in the Texas military and/or the United States’ armed services, are not required to take the range demonstration of the exam. Also, those who have completed a training course or have been qualified to use a firearm by the United States’ armed forces or by the Texas military, and apply within ten years from the training or qualification, are also exempt from having to participate in the demonstration section of the exam (HB3784 2017).
In order to become a certified instructor, both offline and online, the contender should have three or more years providing some sort of instruction, needed to have worked with the government before, must have experience with firearms, and go through an extensive background check. They should also be qualified to teach the laws regarding guns, gun safety, nonviolent resolution, and proper storage of the firearm(s). Once someone is certified to conduct instruction, their information as a qualified handgun instructor can be posted onto the departments website for those who are considering applying for a license and need take the courses and the exam, whether online or in person. The department may monitor the instructor during instruction or training with complete cooperation from the instructor. The department may also inspect any files the instructor is keeping while instructing and training in order for the acquiring of the license. If the department finds the applicant, for both a license and to become a certified instructor, unfit, they may have their license withdrawn, suspend, or be rejected (HB3784 2017). These rules and imposed stricter guidelines regarding instructors and what their purpose as an instructor is. One main issue with the passing of House Bill 910, the house bill that allowed citizens the right to carry their weapons openly, was the fear that these people were not skilled while wielding their weapon. This could cause serious damage during an emergency because they were not experienced or trained to use the firearm, especially not in a stressful situation. With this law now in place, everyone who received their license after September 1st, 2017 and has their License to Carry will now know how to properly operate their weapon when deemed necessary based on what they learned during the mandatory course. Many people may see these people with a firearm at their side as a danger to them and those around the licensed individual, but that is not the case. Most Texans with a License to Carry decide to carry their weapons in case a real threat transpires near them or to them. There are limitations to where they are allowed to carry their weapons; for example, they are not allowed to openly carry their weapons on school or college grounds(TXCHA n.d.). Now with this required training, these limitations may change depending on where the location is and what the state actually feels towards trusting these individuals with firearms in sensitive places. These changes, of course, will occur also based on the weapons allowed in Texas, such as a long gun and/or a handgun, because the certain weapon types are also viewed differently in the eyes of legality; for example, carrying a long gun is legal at a professional sporting event while carrying handguns at a professional sporting event is considered a misdemeanor (TXCHA n.d.).
The bill also acknowledges how to employ a skilled and qualified instructor for both the online course and offline course. This is important for they will be educating and testing those who wish to obtain a license to ensure they too are educated and qualified to openly carry their weapon in public. The written exam and the demonstration by the applicant will verify if a person is willing to put in the time, effort, and responsibility to ensure the safety of others and themselves; the time they will put in includes studying and learning the Texas gun laws as well as practicing gun safety and proper proficiencies regarding the use of a firearm. The state of Texas also considers that not everyone is capable of teaching certain skills needed during the course and tries to hire those who are more fitting using strict requirements to ensure that everyone who takes the course is properly trained to publicly carry a gun.
An example of the practicality of the bill may come suddenly and it is important that those with weapons can help lessen or eliminate the chance of danger and from harming those who are innocent. A scenario in which this course may be helpful is in one where a random person just starts firing an assault rifle with the intent to kill as many people as they can. Someone who has their license to carry but is not properly trained in safety techniques and accuracy may endanger those around him rather than help. They may accidentally handle the gun incorrectly and hurt an innocent person or themselves, and they may never have used a gun, leading to further endangerment of innocent civilians if the person does not have accuracy or the skills to properly use a gun. On the contrary, someone in the same scenario who has their license and took the course has a much higher chance of helping in this situation. This person knows the do’s and do not’s of handling a weapon and has had proper training they learned while taking the course. They can help stop the shooter from killing and/or injuring more innocent people by shooting him so he is no longer able to move or shoot, making the course a priceless lifesaver in case of an emergency such as this one. In case of an emergency, like in the situation described, taking a course such as the one imposed by the bill.
The future with this new law in Texas, as with any other law, is unpredictable seeing as some people are against guns in general and some are for guns. Though people see many negatives with taking this course, the good that comes from it outweighs the bad. People will now be carrying their weapons fully aware of how dangerous they truly are, especially in a public setting, and they will be educated on how to store, maintain, and use a firearm based on strict guidelines instructors have to abide by. It also serves for a safer future for Texas citizens in public. This is a step forward for the future of gun safety.
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