HOUSTON—Virginia State Police reported an increase of 12 percent in people seeking non-resident concealed handgun permits in 2011. Firearms instructors report it’s an increase in out-of-state business that continues this year thanks in large part to non-Virginia residents circumventing tougher concealed carry laws in their own states: like Texas.
To receive a concealed handgun license in Texas you first have to attend a 10-hour classroom course. After that the instructor leads you through a firing range demonstration where you have to fire at least 50 rounds.
Donovan Lamar is a Texas-certified firearms instructor at his family-run business, Hot Wells Shooting Range in Cypress.
“We go through dispute resolution, ego states, Chapter 9 – use of deadly force,” he said of the course he teaches with the help of the state-issued rule book and a lengthy Power Point presentation.
“It’s all about proficiency. We just want to make sure you know how to operate your gun, and most importantly, that you know how to operate that gun safely,” said Lamar.
But several Internet sites headquartered in the state of Virginia are, according to critics, circumventing classes like Lamar’s and leading Texans, and residents of other states, to take an easier way out.
The Concealed Carry Institute is one of those sites. Operated out of a firearms dealer’s office in Norfolk, Virginia it offers a one-hour online tutorial on gun safety. According to Virginia law the online course, followed by a 20-question quiz (which you need 15 right to pass) is sufficient to qualify an applicant for “the competency requirement for obtaining a concealed handgun permit” in the state of Virginia. The applicant can print the certificate from the company’s website and submit it with the other documentation required by Virginia State Police to obtain a non-resident CHL. And because Virginia and Texas have a reciprocal agreement for CHL licenses, the Virginia permit qualifies a Texan to conceal-carry the same gun legally here.
“People want to protect themselves and their family,” said Steve Dowdy the Norfolk firearms instructor in the online video. “You know they’re not trying to join the Marines or Seal Team Six. I think you’re asking a little bit much out of people when you’re looking for that much training or shooting.”
“My biggest question is what are they not teaching,” said Lamar.
Texas firearms instructors have questions and so do lawmakers. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is not a fan of the Virginia loophole. He authored the Texas CHL law when he was a state senator.
“My concern with this online process is that the licensee doesn’t learn anything about penal code chapter 9, or penal code chapter 46,” Patterson responded. “The first chapter relates to lawful deadly force, and the 2nd to prohibited locations for CHL carry. You need to know that when you carry a firearm for self defense.”
“Plus, in my personal opinion, if you’re not making people take a test then when are they ever going to shoot,” added Lamar. “When are we ever going to see what their proficiency is on their test?”
“So we’re not saying that people shouldn’t do that (Texas CHL classes) but we’re kind of giving them the minimal amount of training that we feel they need to know to own a gun and have it concealed,” said Dowdy from his Norfolk office.
There is no indication that lawmakers are considering changing Texas law to close the Virginia loophole. But as the agreement stands now a Texas resident need only pass the online course, provide Virginia State Police with certified fingerprints, pass a background check, and submit the appropriate application materials and fee and they will receive a Virginia non-resident conceal carry permit in 45 days: all without ever taking the Texas-mandated 10-hour class.