Guns, the CHL, and the Second Amendment

     For most of my adult life I have owned some sort of weapon…i.e... a rifle or a pistol. Not that I ever felt a need security-wise for one; it was more a matter of “well, you never know…,” or perhaps it was just a sort of neat thing to possess. About the only time I ever had a use for a weapon (at least during my non-military years) was when we lived in Wyoming and did a lot of hunting. My brother-in-law, Buddy, and I bought Remington BDL 7mm magnum rifles with scopes and used them for several years in our quests for deer, antelope, and elk. Additionally, for all the years we traveled in our campers and motorhomes, I always carried next to my seat a twelve gauge shotgun with a pistol grip and shortened to a comfy length. Not sure why, I just seemed to feel safer with it there because “well, you never know.”
     Along the way, I have collected a few pistols, small calibers like .22s and .25s, primarily from my parents and other opportunities which presented themselves. Having moved to Texas in the early nineties, the opportunity to shoot, recreationally or otherwise, has not presented itself very often because, in the final analysis, I’m not a dedicated gun aficionado and do not look for reasons to whip out a weapon, flash it, fire it, or brandish it. I know, I know, I’m in Texas now, and I need to become a little more ornery and trigger-happy.
     Not only am I in Texas, but I am also now in Houston, which presents a somewhat different kettle of fish. During the seventeen years we lived in Baytown, I never felt an uneasy sense of an imminent threat, but now that we are living in Northwest Houston, we are surrounded by over four million people, and, if you watch the ten o’clock news, it appears that a good percentage of them are attempting to break into various neighborhood homes anytime during the day or night. We are fortunate to be living in a fairly quiet neighborhood, but it seems that once one pulls out of our neighborhood onto FM1960, it’s every man for himself. Every time some of those quality citizens rumble up next to me at a traffic light in their $2,000 car with the $4,000 set of 24” custom wheels and a hammering stereo blasting, it make me want to click off my safety on my….I mean, if I was packing, that’s what I would feel like doing.
     So, to cut to the chase, for the last year or so, I have been considering applying for a Texas Concealed Handgun License. I have been encouraged along the way by a pack of guys with whom I have breakfast every Friday at 9:00 a.m. sharp at a certain respectable establishment noted for good breakfasts. When Shirley and I moved to Spring we began attending Bethel Tabernacle, and these men are all (amazingly) respected members of the church. In a short time, they all have become very valued friends, and as I told them a few weeks ago, I feel like I have known them for years and have every confidence in their character, spirituality, and loyalty. I like them because they are quick-witted with a sharp sense of humor and can dish out the verbal good-natured jabs as well as take them. They are my kind of people.
     They are also….well, let me put it this way, when I am with them for breakfast, I feel VERY safe. They are hunters and gun aficionados to the max, and at an early age (I think) they memorized the entire Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and can smell a threat to their right to bear arms from a very great distance. I, too, am a fan of the Second Amendment; however, I have learned that even such phrases as “But, you know, something needs to be done” can raise a red flag in their eyes, so I limit my comments concerning the issue to such intelligent responses as “Ain’t it the truth!” and “Yep, he’s gonna try to take 'em!” Anyway, they encouraged me to get my license.
     The first problem was I didn’t have a heavy enough weapon to do my shooting with. One must qualify with at least a .32 caliber, and my heaviest was a .25 semi-automatic. Apparently you can’t qualify with a sawed-off 12 gauge. (Tears up the targets.) My good friend, who shall remain nameless…we’ll just call him Jerry, graciously offered to let me use his Sig Sauer 9mm Model P226 semi-automatic, to which I just as graciously accepted. He even threw in a box of shells. At the same time all this was transpiring, my daughter, Kim, had also expressed an interest in obtaining her CHL, so with her reserving for us a Saturday date for classes at a local gun establishment, we decided to go to Gander Mountain and take a few practice shots in preparation for the upcoming qualifying and testing.
     That was where I began to realize that this endeavor was not going to be particularly inexpensive. At this point in our nation’s history, those who fear for their gun rights are creating a run on the market, and weapons are selling for twice their suggested retail prices, and ammunition is hard to find. Personally, I think the flames of the whole buying panic are being fanned by the gun manufacturers and dealers themselves to generate incredible profits. No government official has yet mentioned gun confiscation, yet even the mention of the word “registration” can drive the prices of guns up another ten percent. Somebody is making a lot of money out of this artificial hysteria.
     Be that as it may, Kim and I, after sitting through an obligatory gun safety video (Do not play with loaded weapons!), finally got our chance at the firing range (at $25/hour.) Not being familiar with the 9mm, I will admit (don’t tell Jerry) that I loaded the shells in backwards on my first attempt, but quickly realized my mistake when the clip wouldn’t go into the grip. Hopefully, no one noticed. We only had 50 rounds of ammo between us, so we shot carefully. I’ll say this…that Sig Sauer P226 9mm is a sweet shootin’ pistol. I had also brought two of my other pistols to fire, and Kim had brought her Beretta. We fired them when we ran out of 9mm shells. My little .25 would not load, however, and I asked the monitor for assistance. When he looked at my Czechoslovakian Z Aut 6.35mm Pistole, he said, “Wow! That is a rare gun!” Which it is.  Manufactured in Brno in 1950, the pistol is about half the size of my hand and was very popular during the Cold War as an assassination weapon of choice. The trouble with the gun is it may be small, but you can’t hide the noise…it is deafening when fired. He couldn’t get it to fire, either, but a few days later I gave it to my friend, Jerry, to examine, and within 24 hours he had it looking and working like new.
     So on a recent Saturday, Kim and I were at Tactical Firearms in Katy, Texas, bright and early at 8:00 a.m. to begin our classes. As we walked into their showroom, there sat some sort of monster machine gun on display and ready to fire…at $140.00 per 30 minutes plus a dollar a shell (40 shell minimum.) Let’s see, what do they say about big boys’ toys? There were about 50 people in our class, and therein lay the first surprise. I expected a room full of red necks drooling chewing tobacco and wearing hunting vests; in actuality, there was a substantial percentage of women and even men who looked like they might have had the intelligence to read. All in all, it was a cross section of Middle America. I wondered how many were there out of an instinct for self-preservation or simply a love for firearms.
     The instructor was a cool guy. He came into the classroom carrying a rifle of some kind (my ignorance is showing again,) and proceeded to tell us this was his 320th weapon to buy, and in his home he had 190,000 rounds of ammunition. “Am I paranoid?” he asked. I kept my answer to myself. Apparently in his eyes, any crime committed within a 20 mile radius of his home was justification to buy another weapon. I just hope his home never catches on fire…if it happens at night, it will be July 4th fireworks in the neighborhood. Knowledgeable, however, the instructor was about gun safety, gun law, and my rights as a gun owner.
     Right off the bat, it was time to go fire our weapons for qualifying. In Texas for a CHL, a candidate must fire fifty rounds at three targets and score at least 175 out of 250 possible points. The process was very regulated and well monitored. The last time I was on a firing range was in Berlin in 1967, at which time I received my “Expert Marksman” ribbon. 46 years later, I didn’t do too badly as I scored 247 out of 250. What really impressed me, though, was Kim made the very same score. Must be hereditary. The firing took nearly two hours, primarily because there were 50 of us candidates and only fifteen alleys to fire in, so we fired…and waited. Afterward, we sat through about three hours of instruction; however, that three hours of instruction took nearly 6 hours as we took breaks, lunch, etc. We also had a representative from an organization called Texas Law Shield who gave us a combination lesson/sales pitch concerning the use of deadly force in Texas. At the conclusion he offered an insurance package which offered to us a bank of lawyers skilled in gun laws who would step in to defend us in the event we had to use deadly force to protect our properties. It was reasonably priced, so I bought it. So now, be VERY careful when you step on my property.
     The last event was the Official State Test for Concealed Handgun License. Fifty questions and not too hard. My kudos again to the instructor who had practically given us every question and answer in advance. Kim and I both made perfect scores. It’s hard to be humble when you’re….never mind. We finally made in back home about 5:30…a full Saturday shot, but hopefully a goal accomplished. A couple of days later, I went on line and initiated my application for my CHL to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Since I am a senior it only cost me $70 (!). Kim’s will be $140. I had to pay in advance also for my fingerprinting…another $10.
     The following Monday I went to a local fingerprinting office and was officially verified as being clean as a whistle and not an escaped convict from Georgia. The next day I sent my fingerprint verification, my CHL class attendance verification, and my registration checklist to Austin so they can reaffirm that I’m on the up and up. Apparently, I can expect my real license to arrive in about four weeks. So we wait.
     Hopefully this whole effort of obtaining my CHL will be an exercise in futility, in the sense that I hope and pray I will never have to raise a gun in anger or defense. But I also realize that we are no longer living in the 1950’s when homes were seldom locked and cars were parked with the windows down. Random violence is evident not just in the big cities, but even in the village hamlets scattered across our nation…witness Sandy Hook. Violence is no longer a geographical phenomenon, it is a reflection of a nation and a world besotted with movie violence, video violence, and television violence. Those who argue in favor of these forms of media say they simply reflect the trends of society. I am convinced that it is the opposite…the media influence society, and, regrettably, society establishes its standard of behavior from the media. A child will witness 58,000 killings via movies, television, and video games by the time he/she reaches 18 years of age. If a moment of anger or conflict is suddenly thrust upon that child, the first impulse will be to violence. In today’s world, parents face a formidable task in teaching their children…as the scriptures say…”in the way they should go.”