Closing the Utah permit loophole in Texas

Rep. Burnam has introduced a bill to address the “Utah CHL loophole” that allows instructors to teach the Utah carry permit class in Texas, and for Texas residents to carry in Texas on a Utah permit – thus avoiding the additional time and expense of getting a Texas CHL.

The way I would have solved the Utah loophole problem is this:

If you have a Texas drivers’ license and you want to carry in Texas, you should have a Texas carry permit.

The only exemption would be for those that move here and have a valid license from another state (that we have reciprocity with) that has not yet expired.
They should be allowed to carry in Texas using that license until it expires, at which time they need to get a Texas carry permit.

Utah’s program is out of sync with all the other states that issue carry licenses, because they allow Utah-certified instructors to teach Utah permit classes outside their state borders. No other state does this.  This is great from a gun-rights absolutist perspective, because it allows people living in anti-gun states like California, and states like Washington state with poor reciprocity with other states, get carry permits that are recognized in many states.  In a pro-gun, strong-CHL state like Texas, the Utah program creates problems.

When Texas residents get Utah licenses, they aren’t counted in the stats on how many people in Texas have carry permits. That weakens public perception of the popularity of CHL in Texas, and weakens the voice of gun owners to state government.  If everyone in Texas that carries got a Utah permit, it would appear that no one in Texas is “using” the right-to-carry and therefore reforms aren’t needed to improve and simplify our gun laws.   Money is another issue – those getting Utah licenses are sending their money to Utah, when it should be going to our state’s treasury.  We can’t lobby to have our state’s CHL fees reduced if everyone opts out of our state program.

The instructors that are teaching the Utah classes aren’t doing anybody any favors by lying to their students and telling them that it’s a good idea to carry in public and be ignorant of Texas gun laws.  Last time I checked, ignorance is no excuse when you get busted, and “I was trying to save $50 on class tuition” or “I didn’t know how to shoot or operate my gun, so I took the Utah class because it didn’t have any range time” aren’t going to work very well as defenses in court.  As I’ve told people who have called me looking for Utah classes, one hour of a lawyer’s time costs more than the difference between the Texas permit and the Utah permit.  Pay it now, or pay it later.

I teach Texas CHL and a bunch of pre- and post-CHL classes because I actually _care_ whether people that train with me live or die, should they end up in a situation where they need to use a gun to defend themselves.

My friend Tom Givens, who teaches in Memphis and offers 1-2 classes at my range every year, has had 56 students involved in shootings in the past 5 years.  Their “hit ratio” of shots fired that hit their intended targets is over 90% – about triple that of the hit ratio of officers in major police departments.  Like me, he offers multiple classes that go beyond his state’s minimum carry permit requirements. Many of those students involved in shooters were graduates of those post-CHL classes.

An Austin musician was shot to death recently in his own home.    If you read the news articles about the incident, what appears to have happened is this:  the musician had a gun and no training.  An intruder broke in, and he tried to ‘solve the problem’ using his gun.  At some point the musician ended up in a some kind of physical struggle over the gun and got shot in the neck with his own gun.  The intruder also died in the hospital days after the incident.  Training makes a difference–anyone that’s attended our Home Defense Tactics or Personal Tactics Skills classes has learned that the safest response to a home intruder is to take up a position of cover and/or concealment in your safe room, call 911, and be prepared to use deadly force if the intruder enters the safe room.  The risks of searching your home for the intruder, including the likelihood that you could end up in exactly the type of grappling match that occurred (and the possibility you could die as a result) are covered.

Many gun owners believe that all they have to do to be ready for a life-or-death scenario is just to “have a gun”. They believe that under stress, they will instinctively do the right things and hit all their shots. This belief isn’t based on data analysis or study. It’s just more comforting than the alternative, which is to study real situations and discover that those that survive typically have thought about the situation in advance, have a plan, and have equipped and trained themselves appropriately.   Over and over again I’ve been taught that under stress you will do what you’ve trained to do, and you will do it at or below the skill level you have in practice.  In force on force scenario classes and in competitions I have seen trained people freeze up and great shooters miss.   I have heard world champion shooters step off the firing line after winning major events and say “I shot better in practice than I did today”.  Those that believe in the fantasy that they will excel at something they can’t do in practice live a dangerous lie.

Those teaching the Utah classes in Texas are doing so purely out of greed – they aren’t doing any of their students in Texas a favor.  All the large post-CHL level schools in the country basically agree on the basic set of topics and skills that people need to learn to be competently armed.  None of the CHL programs in any state require that level of skill and knowledge.  Arguing about what is “a right” and what is not doesn’t change the hard cold fact that in a real situation tactics, speed, accuracy and power all matter.  An untrained person carrying a .22 derringer they’ve never fired before loose in a pocket is much less likely to survive than someone carrying a Glock 19 in an IWB holster who can draw from concealment and hit the A-Zone at 5 yards in 2 seconds or less 10 times out of 10.

The Utah-Texas instructor quoted in the linked article saying that the live-fire part of the course didn’t matter is 100% WRONG.  He’s graduating people that may not have ever HELD a gun and helping them get carry permits.  The Texas CHL shooting test is not a great standard, but is a basic level of skill.  Someone that’s never shot that leaves a Texas CHL class capable of shooting 70% on the test has some meager skill that might be needed that night to save his/her life– and an awareness that his/her skill is marginal, at best, compared to the others in the class and the state standard.  That same non-shooter attending the Utah class leaves a non-shooter.

Has any Texan that has used the Utah “loophole” been involved in a shooting yet?  Texas law exempts Texas CHL instructors from liability related to the Texas CHL course, but no such liability protection exists in Texas law for those teaching the Utah course.  Since CHL instructors are normally summoned to testify in cases involving their students, it will be interesting to see how that plays out in court in some future test case.  I guess that those that don’t think they need any training or knowledge or skill to be well prepared to win a gunfight aren’t worrying about going to court afterward either.

Bottom line? Burnam’s bill may not be the best solution, but perhaps it will stimulate discussion on how the Utah permit loophole can be closed in Texas.  I note with disappointment that the Texas State Rifle Association is going to oppose this bill and support leaving the Utah loophole open — basically working against the Texas CHL program TSRA lobbied to create, enabling Utah to siphon off the Texas CHL numbers that TSRA uses to back up its lobbying efforts.   Hopefully they are working to get a better bill on the floor this session.


  1. Pingback: How is less more? « Stuff From Hsoi

  2. I moved from Washington state, a “shall issue” state, to Texas last year. In Washington, the state must issue a CPL (Concealed Pistol License) to any applicant unless it can articulate a reason it should be denied. I still travel there regularly on business, and I’ll keep my WA CPL current. Because Texas recognizes Washington state CPLs, I’ve had no reason to acquire a Texas CHL… so far.

    This will, plain and simple, make legal concealed carry more expensive for me, with no benefit for the public. Washington’s shall issue licensees are not less safe than Texas’ licensees. Oh, but there will be two beneficiaries: CHL instructors in Texas and the Texas state government.

    There is no “loophole”. Oppose this bill.

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