Constitutional Carry law: What do South Texas firearms instructors, law enforcement think?

Kailey E. Hunt
Corpus Christi Caller Times
Ammunition is strewn across the floor after a shooting session at Nichols Guns - Indoor Shooting Range & Gun Shop in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Some key South Texas law enforcement personnel and firearms instructors are backing Texans' soon-to-be established right to carry a gun without a permit. But, those supporters and critics of the measure agree, proper training is still necessary.

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign House Bill 1927 into law — allowing for the unlicensed carrying of handguns in the state after the Senate approved a compromise on the bill last week.

"If I’m honest, I'm surprised that it took this long to come this far," said South Texas licensed firearms instructor Kyle Thompson.

Like many other area firearms instructors and law enforcement personnel, Thompson — owner of Patriot Response, a small business dedicated to firearms training and education, as well as a full-time firefighter/EMT —  has lots of thoughts regarding the bill. 

"Being in the firearms instruction industry and being a supporter of the Second Amendment ... I support it," Thompson told the Caller-Times. "Every citizen should have the right to protect themselves. But there are some factors that Texans should take into consideration when the bill passes.

New handgun law in Texas:The law explained and what you need to know about the changes

"It's really going to be up to each individual to seek out the proper training from a qualified instructor — I think, in my opinion, it’s not even arguable — there is a certain level of training that should go into carrying a weapon every single day."

Certified pistol instructor Darren Sikes aims his gun at Nichols Guns - Indoor Shooting Range & Gun Shop in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Darren Sikes, a certified pistol instructor at Nichols Guns - Indoor Shooting Range & Gun Shop in Corpus Christi, agrees.

"Regardless of needing a certification, you still need actual training to go along with that responsibility of carrying the gun. Personally and professionally, I just really encourage people to actually get good training to learn how to use that before they’re carrying it out in public.”

What about Texas' license to carry a handgun?

Which begs the question — how relevant is Texas' License to Carry A Handgun, or LTC, now that it is looking as if it will no longer be required under state law?

According to Kenneth Lease, owner of and primary instructor at Hold the Line firearms training in Corpus Christi — "the license to carry is still very much active."

"People that have gotten the license to carry — it’s still going to benefit them because there is going to be far more places, as a licensed holder, that they can carry than you can under permit-less carry.”

Lease is of course referring to Texas' many reciprocal agreements with other states that allow the licensed carrying of handguns. Essentially these agreements mean "if I can carry in your state, you can carry in mine." So if you are traveling and wanting to carry a handgun in a license-only state, it would be wise to have a Texas license.

"It’s actually going to benefit people to take license to carry on many standpoints," he  said. "One is, obviously, if you take the class — you’re going to learn the law... and as a law-abiding citizen, it’s our responsibility to to know the law.”

Pistol at Nichols Guns - Indoor Shooting Range & Gun Shop in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Lease also said he is planning on hosting public safety seminars, in addition to his regular LTC courses, in preparation for the new law.

"We’re are putting together presentations right now — it's going to be called 'Fundamentals of Constitutional Carry (Permit-less Carry),' and it’s going to be like a two-hour class that we are going to conduct on a weekday evening — let’s say like a Tuesday night somewhere — where people can show up and learn the law."

Public safety concerns with Constitutional Carry

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, however, still has lots of public safety concerns with the bill.

"I think that this type of legislation is irresponsible on the part of law-abiding citizens who take a lot of steps so that way they can actually carry a firearm while doing so with the proper knowledge, education, and training," Gonzalez told the Caller-Times. "It’s a huge liability for the people of Texas.”

MORE:Texas bill to allow unlicensed handgun carrying 'a recipe for disaster,' firearms trainers say

In particular, Gonzalez fears we might see an increase in officer-involved shootings.

"That is my worry — that there may be more officer-involved shootings. Not because the police want to shoot more people — I’m not saying that — but because individuals will have that deadly force already on their side. ... Prior to this law being enacted, no one had a gun on their side —  if an officer arrived on a scene and had an interaction with somebody, they didn’t think they [would] have to use the deadly force or firearm. ... So I can see how those situations can escalate rather quickly."

Leaders in both chambers have previously held permitless carry at arm’s length, but this year gun rights advocates have found powerful allies in the Texas House.

There is optimism about Texas' Constitutional Carry bill

Still, Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper is optimistic about the bill. 

"I'm a big Second Amendment guy. I think most Texas sheriffs are, and I believe Texas got it right," Hooper said. "I grew up around guns all my life — hunting, shooting, reloading, and doing all that stuff. There's a lot of people that probably shouldn't buy a gun until they get more familiar — but that's a personal decision. It shouldn't be the government's decision."

"And so that, that cottage industry out there of all these people who have, you know, developed a business of making money by teaching these [firearms] courses — they're not going away. I think they're going to expand ... because there's going to be more people who are looking for that education."

Asked if he has any new safety concerns for his officers with this new bill, Hooper said, "It's just very rare, you know, that you have a problem with a law-abiding citizen who happens to be armed — not to say it hasn't happened ... but it's very rare. The biggest concern for law enforcement officers on the street are criminals with guns."

Detective Sgt. Joseph Rivas of the Port Aransas Police Department agrees.

"Officers typically use [a] common sense approach to contacts with the public," he said. "In Texas, it is not uncommon for a citizen to have a weapon either concealed or in their vehicle. Officers are aware of this fact and approach most of their contacts assuming they are armed — [the] majority of them [being] law abiding citizens who [are] just trying to protect themselves."

Still, Sgt. Rivas stressed, "Carrying a firearm comes with a lot of responsibilities and most don't think about it. We see it with verbal altercations when one person could have walked away from the altercation but it escalates into a physical altercation. With the constitutional carry, we now have introduced a firearm into the altercation and it may turn deadly.

"These are things the citizens need to consider when they use or think about using deadly force. There are still criminal and civil ramifications when they decide to use deadly force.”

Assuming Abbott fulfills his vow to sign the bill into law, 'constitutional carry' will take effect on Sept. 1st — making Texas the 21st state to allow the practice.

Kailey E. Hunt covers breaking news and public safety in South Texas. Help support more local coverage with a subscription at caller.com/subscribe