On February 26th, I joined about 100 other Texas gun owners and testified before the Texas Senate committee on State Affairs. They were soliciting input from citizens on what changes we would like them to consider in the next session. The top two issues most brought up were constitutional (no permit, no training) carry, and eliminating or reducing the number of gun-free zones.
What I spoke about was a little more specific: modifying SB 1857, the bill that directed DPS to create the 2 day School Safety/Active Shooter course that I and a few hundred other License to Carry instructors are certified by DPS to teach.
We were originally limited to 3 minutes (or about 300 words), but due to the large number of people present, our time was cut to 2 minutes per speaker. I wrote out what I was going to say, and submitted a written copy of it as part of my testimony.
My name is Karl Rehn. I represent myself and my company, KR Training. I have been a firearms trainer since 1991, certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the Department of Public Safety, NRA, Rangemaster and the Force Science Institute.
In response to the passage of Senate Bill 1857, DPS created a 2 day training course to teach armed teachers the skills they need to protect students. I teach several sessions of this course each year to church security teams and school personnel. There are several hundred instructors certified by DPS to teach this class, but adoption of this program is severely limited by school district policies prohibiting permit holders and graduates of this higher level course from carrying on school property.
Active shooter incidents in White Settlement, Sutherland Springs, and Tyler all provide examples of armed individuals taking immediate action and saving lives. Statistics show an average of 6 people are shot, per minute, in active shooter situations. Police response times are measured in minutes. An armed person present when the attack begins can act in seconds, as the defenders in White Settlement did. Data from schools in which permit holders are allowed to carry report no problems, and none have been shot in error by responding police.
When the carry permit law was passed back in 1995, cities were not allowed to make their own rules adding new restrictions on permit holders, because our state constitution clearly states that regulation of the wearing of arms is a state power. Despite this, school districts have been allowed to make their own policies and override the judgment of the legislature and the experts at DPS that created the armed teacher course.
School district administrators are not experts in firearms training. The trainers at DPS that designed the course and set the standards are the best qualified to assess whether an individual has the ability to carry safely at a school. The Legislature needs to amend SB 1857 to mandate that any graduate of the DPS-developed School Safety course, school employee or visitor, be allowed to carry on K-12 school grounds, including at sporting events and other functions.
Here is a link to the entire 9+ hours of testimony. My part is around 7:05-7:09.
The course was originally developed specifically for armed teachers. I’ve found that the course has wider appeal, particularly for church security personnel, and I’ve enhanced the course by incorporating the slides from the ALERRT Civilian Response to Active Shooter course, the DHS Stop the Bleed course, training in how to draw from concealment (taken from the NRA CCW curriculum), and two additional shooting tests: the officer shooting test from a major metro Texas city police department, and the FBI agent qualification shooting test.
Each time I teach the School Safety course, I submit paperwork to DPS. They have records on everyone that has attended the course. DPS currently prints “instructor” on carry licenses held by instructors. It would be simple for them to also print “school” on the license for those that have passed the School Safety course, indicating that person has had a higher level of training. The law could be modified to allow holders of that enhanced license to carry places regular permit holders are currently prohibited, such as schools.
Most of those testifying really wanted the restrictions on carry in prohibited locations removed, and the training requirement eliminated. What I’m proposing is a much smaller step forward than they wanted, but one I think has a better chance of passing. And just like the original carry permit program, with its 10-15 hour training course and restriction only to concealed carry has led to the 4-6 hour course, the blended online/in person course, and open carry, getting the law changed to allow some permit holders to carry on school property would be a small step forward that could lead to improvements in the future.
The reason there were 100+ gun owners testifying at that committee hearing was because Rachel Malone, the Gun Owners of America Texas lobbyist, organized them. She sent out info on how to structure a 3 minute talk, ran a practice session the night prior to the hearing, rented an AirBNB so 15 people that came in from out of town to testify had a place to stay, ordered pizzas for people to snack on when it became apparent that none of us would get to speak before 3 p.m., and ran a Facebook Messenger chat keeping everyone updated. As a result of the collective effort, gun owners outnumbered the “Moms Demand Action” folks, and the gun owners that spoke did a good job speaking for the cause.
I’ll be returning to the Capitol March 11th to give the same testimony to a committee specifically discussing school safety.