As of 9/1/09, the state penal code in Texas was altered regarding the regulations concerning members of our population that carry concealed handguns. On September first of this year, state legislation in Texas has removed the criminal penalty for the non-crime of displaying a Concealed Handgun License when asked for identification by a peace officer.
Okay, what does this mean? Prior to this change in the law, holders of a Concealed Handgun License (to be further mentioned as a "CHL") were required to display said CHL when identification was demanded by a Licensed Peace Officer at any time the holder of said CHL was, in fact, "packing" a concealed handgun.
Prior to a change in the law that occurred a few years ago, holders of a CHL were required to present said CHL at ANY TIME, regardless of whether or not they were actually in possession of a concealed handgun.
Well now...in past years, we've removed the requirement to display a CHL when you weren't packing. Now, we've effectively removed (by removing the penalty) the requirement that you display your CHL period.
Here's my complaints about the whole CHL notion in general:
1) First and foremost, not everyone has the opportunity to spend an entire day of classroom and range instruction at a time that is convenient for the guy holding the CHL class. Some of us actually work for a living.
2) The entire CHL process is, in all actuality, rather cost-prohibitive for those who work a basic job. As a matter of fact, just the actual license fee alone costs almost as much as my first pistol did...and that doesn't even get into the cost of the actual class instruction, the requisite passport photos, et cetera.
3) When you have a CHL, your name goes into a state database...along with a number that is automatically tied to your driver license number.
I have not applied for a CHL, and will likely not do so, for the simple fact that I am lawfully allowed in the state of Texas to keep a loaded AND UNLICENSED handgun in my vehicle at any time, provided four provisions are met:
1) I'm lawfully allowed to own the handgun.
2) I'm not committing a crime of greater classification than a Class C traffic offense.
3) I'm sober.
4) The pistol is concealed from "plain view" (i.e. "you can't see it from outside the car").
Regardless of what the law actually ALLOWS me to do, I still have a massive problem with the state regulating the carry of a handgun at all.
Don't get me wrong, I think there should be a provision regarding felons in our handgun laws...but this actually brings me to another point. As of 1994, the Great State of Texas created what is known as the "State Jail Felony" classification of crimes. Whilst the punishment of a state jail felony is relatively minor by comparison of felonies that are listed be degree (from top to bottom: Third, Second, First, Capital), there is still that inconvenient little fact that someone convicted of the crime of being in possession of another person's credit card number is just as "felonious" as a person that has committed an offense of premeditated murder, as far as a removal of a person's rights are concerned. When you are convicted of a State Jail Felony, you are still required to have stamped on your state-issued driver license, in big red letters, "Convicted Felon"...which is no different than a man that has been paroled after imprisonment for raping and killing a 16 year old girl. When we cure this situation, maybe we can really work on some other issues...
Regardless, the state of Texas allows all felons the right to possess firearms AFTER five years from the date of release from incarceration or state-sponsored community supervision, whichever comes latest...as it should be. In a civilized society, we decide that a person's punishment is left to a judge and jury. When you have paid your debt to society et al, you are paid up.
Moving right along now...
Let's look at the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution:
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
It just doesn't really get any more basic than that. So what the hell is my problem? Well, it's quite simple. For far too long, we've been concerning ourselves with the right to "KEEP", and forgetting all about the right to "BEAR" our arms.
Seriously. We keep fighting over what type of firearms we're allowed to still own.
As it stands, I happen to own a couple of "military-grade" rifles. They will penetrate a standard police-issue Class-IIIA kevlar vest, and are capable of using magazines worthy of being considered "very high capacity". At the present time, I currently own only 30rd magazines for them, because that is the biggest available at my local sporting goods store.
I also happen to be the proud owner of a Mossberg Model 500A shotgun. It sports a 20" barrel and an 8-round magazine. With two rounds, I can unload more ordinance downrange than an M16 with a full 30rd magazine...and do it faster, and still have six more rounds. What's more, I can reload my magazine "on the fly", without having to wait for it to become empty first. Using standard off-the-shelf 1oz slugs available at any Wal-Mart in Texas (at the bargain rate of around $1 a piece), I can penetrate the engine block of a police car.
Still moving right along...
I also happen to be the proud owner of a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol. While this pistol holds 15rds in the magazine, let's look at a few things here:
1) There's not a single round available on the civilian market that will penetrate a Class-IIIA kevlar vest.
2) Its accuracy is limited to, at best, 25 meters.
The most important fact that I can mention about this pistol, however, is the fact that it is THE MOST REGULATED FIREARM that I currently own...even though it is the least powerful and least "destructive".
The only upside my "sidearm" has, over my long guns, would be the fact that it is CONCEALABLE...and yet, I am still not allowed to carry this pistol in the open, for all the honest world to see. In order to protect myself in public with said pistol, outside of my home or vehicle, I must purchase a license from the state and follow certain arbitrary rules and regulations concerning when and where I can carry this pistol...and still, I must carry this pistol in a manner that prohibits it from being seen by anyone else.
It would seem that my state allows me to "keep" arms, but it does not recognize my right to "bear" them. You see, a "right" is not something you have to apply for. You don't have to pay for it. You don't have to get your "rights" approved. You don't have to submit fingerprints and an official passport photo. Anything that would require such stipulations are not "rights", but rather, "privileges".
It appears to me that the state does not recognize my right to keep and bear arms, it merely grants me the privilege of doing so, provided certain conditions are met.
Texas, I'm really not impressed...