posted by Charles L. Cotton on Feb 26

On Monday, February 25, 2008, the Beaumont Enterprise published an editorial that purports to be an endorsement of Texas Senator Tommy Williams, but is nothing more than not-so-veiled airing of sour grapes. This short, half-page editorial raises three complaints, but only one is addressed in this response, although all three are equally unfounded.The Texas concealed handgun law passed in 1995 and Texas Concealed Handgun Licensees (“CHLs”) have proven themselves to be the most law-abiding segment of the Texas population. Conviction statistics maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) supports this conclusion. For several years, many members of the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate have sought to protect the identity of CHLs, but this effort has always met strong opposition from the media. The media’s excuses changed over the years, ranging from a desire to prevent prejudice against minorities in the issuance or denial of licenses, to a general right of the public to know who has a CHL. Until 2007, the media’s curiosity prevailed over the security needs of the most law-abiding of Texans.

In the 2007 Texas Legislative Session, HB991 passed making the identity of Texas CHLs confidential and available only to law enforcement and judicial personnel. The need for this protection was so obvious, one wonders why it took so long to pass. Prior to the passage of HB991, anyone could send a letter and $5 to the DPS and check to see if any particular person had a CHL. By law, the DPS was powerless to protect the identity of the CHL and had to provide the information. Senator Williams was among twenty seven (27) Texas Senators and 133 Members of the Texas House of Representatives that understood the danger that CHLs faced when any estranged spouse, scorned boyfriend or girlfriend, or violent criminal could find out if any would-be victim was or was not able to carry a handgun for self-defense. This information would be invaluable in determining whether to attack someone and when to do so. Only four (4) Senators voted against HB991, in essence saying that the media’s curiosity was more important than protecting the lives and identity of CHLs.

But people obtaining this information to use in the commission of a crime against a CHL are not the only ones who would abuse the then-current law. Testimony on HB991 included a stunning revelation that Canon USA, with its home office in Canada, has the audacity to require every employee to disclose whether they had a CHL as a term of employment. They also require all employees to advise the Human Resources department if they ever apply for a CHL and if their status as a CHL holder changes. To enforce this absurd invasion of privacy, Canon USA told its employees that it would periodically send a request to the DPS to check whether they had a CHL and if so, its status. This revelation was shocking as such non-criminal use of this information was none the less offensive and had to be stopped.

As for protecting minorities, the DPS already provides all of the information necessary to determine if the Concealed Handgun Licenses are being issued, denied, or revoked in compliance with the law and without prejudice against minorities. Demographic information about licenses issued, denied, suspended and revoked are posted by race, sex, age, zip code and County. This information enables the media to protect minority interests, thus making it unnecessary to risk the lives and identity of individual CHLs.

The Beaumont Enterprise stated in its editorial that “. . . there was virtually no evidence that current state laws were insufficient.” To the contrary, the evidence and the testimony was clear, if only the Enterprise had listened. Thankfully, Senator Tommy Williams and 159 other Senators and Representatives did listen and stood in the gap for CHLs.


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