Are Texas CHL's Really That Good?

cotton-bustThe short answer to the question is a resounding “YES!”  We really are that good and this article sets out the proof.  But first, here is  a short history lesson.

Let us turn the clock back about twenty five years when the idea of passing legislation that would allow law-abiding Texans to carry handguns for self-defense was an idea that was still in its infancy.  Supporters of what we now call a Texas Concealed Handgun License, or simply CHL for short, were thought to be few in number and we were dismissed an “just more gun nuts.”  To say those were frustrating times would be an understatement, but supporters pressed on.  The campaign took on a new persona when newly elected State Senator Jerry Patterson (now Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson) filed a CHL bill in the 1993 Texas Legislative Session.

When it became obvious then-Governor Ann Richards was doing everything in her power to keep the bill from passing and veto it if it did pass, the bill was amended to simply allow Texans to vote in a non-binding referendum to see if we wanted the right-to-carry in Texas.  This amendment was designed to force Governor Richards to show her true colors and deny Texans even the opportunity to express their opinion by voting on the issue.  Richards vetoed the bill, lost her bid for reelection and the rest is history.  George W. Bush was elected Governor, Senator Patterson’s SB60 passed in 1995 and for the first time in over 120 years, Texans were allowed to carry handguns for self-defense.

 Throughout the fight to provide law-abiding Texans the ability as well as the right to defend their lives, opponents painted a bleak and foreboding picture of what life would be like in Texas if citizens were allowed to carry defensive handguns.  This “parade of horribles” knew no bounds with dire predictions that "fender-benders" would become gunfights, enraged husbands would be killing their wives in great big bleeding batches, and children would die by the tens of thousands when they found their parents guns and accidentally shot themselves, their friends and family.  The fact that this did not happen in other states that had concealed carry did not seem to matter to those committed to keeping Texans unarmed and defenseless.

After SB60 passed in 1995, the media and some elected officials who had opposed concealed-carry anxiously awaited the blood-bath they felt would surely come so they could taunt us with “I told you so” and repeal the law in 1997.  As time passed, Texas cities were not awash in blood and our ears were not ringing from gunfire.  Most of those who predicted genocide on a Biblical scale either quietly abandoned their opposition, or were intellectually honest enough to publicly admit their opposition had been unfounded.  Some even became enthusiastic supporters of concealed-carry as did former Harris County District Attorney, John B. “Johnny” Homes.

Not only did Texas’ CHL statute not result in the death toll some predicted, in the eighteen years since SB60 passed, Texas CHL holders have earned a enviable record in terms of being law-abiding citizens.  During that time frame, concealed-carry became a non-issue politically speaking, as well it should have in view of the facts.  While those of us heavily involved intuitively knew CHL’s had garnered a great track record, there was no documented proof.  Yes, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) published the crime statistics on its website, but those raw numbers were not terribly useful in revealing just how good Texas CHL's really are.

In 2008, I decided it was time that Texas CHL’s and elected officials had documented facts and figures to prove what we knew to be true.  In the summer of that year, my law firm had a University of Texas engineering student as summer employee.  (I will not give her full name, but her first name is Allison.)   I assigned her the task of taking the crime statistics published by the DPS and put them in usable spreadsheets.  This was no easy assignment, in spite of the fact that much of the information was available on the DPS website.  At that time, it was difficult to find the yearly population of Texas residents by age.  Most population numbers were given in age ranges like 18 - 21, 22 - 25, etc.  But Allison was tenacious and she got all the data she needed to create what has become a cornerstone in terms of proof that Texas CHL’s are incredibly law-abiding citizens. She was also careful to document the source of information she used, so that anti-gunners could not falsely attack her work.  This documentation has been used by Texas Senators and House Members, as well as Governor Perry and many others to show that Texas CHL’s are as responsible as we predicted all the way back in 1985.  I have only talked to Allison once since 2008, but I hope she knows what a valuable resource her work has become and how it has benefited almost 700,000 Texas CHL's.

Any statistical analysis of a large population can be somewhat daunting to comprehend.  When we are dealing with populations in the 18 million range, even a change of 1/10th of 1 percent is a lot of people.  Therefore, the data is tracked different formats; crimes per 100,000; total convictions; and conviction percentages.  Of these, the easiest for most of us to use and understand is the comparison per 100,000.   It should also be noted that crimes committed by the general population under age 21 years are not included in this analysis, to keep the comparison from being artificially skewed in favor of CHL's.

The current datasheet covers the years 2002 through 2011.  Not all crimes set out in the study are included in this example:

In 2011, there were 518,625 active CHLs, but only 120 total convictions.

  • Overall - CHL's are 15.66 times less likely to commit any offense listed by DPS than is the general population age 21 and older;
  • Assault - The general population over age 21 is over 26 times as likely to commit an assault as are CHLs;
  • Burglary - The general population over age 21 is almost 100 times as likely to commit a burglary as are CHLs;
  • Terroristic threat - The general population over age 21 is over 20 times as likely to commit a terroristic threat as are CHLs;
  • Prohibited Weapons - The general population over age 21 are almost 30 times as likely to be convicted of possessing prohibited as are CHLs.

Texas law enforcement (peace officers) have a good track record, but CHL's are better, far better!  So Texas CHL’s, you can take a well-deserved bow.

The general public, the media and elected officials need to keep the truth in mind when dealing with legislation in the 2013 Texas Legislative Session that will be designed to increase public safety by reducing the locations that are statutorily off-limits to Texas CHL’s.  When emotional rhetoric fills the airways during the legislative session, we all must remember that so-called “gun free” zones, whether parking lots, schools, or elsewhere, are gun free only until would-be mass murderers decide to target those areas precisely because their intended victims will be defenseless.  Texas CHL’s have proven themselves to be responsible, law-abiding citizens capable of properly using handguns to preserve innocent life.  It is past time to remove artificial and unnecessary barriers based upon discredited fear mongering by people unwilling to acknowledge the truth.