Milestone Reached as a Million Texans Now Have Licenses to Carry Handguns

Thursday, May 12, 2016
Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2010 (photo: Tom Pennington, Getty Images)




By Manny Fernandez, New York Times


Texas has quietly reached a milestone: More than 1 million residents now have handgun licenses, one of the biggest citizenries in the country authorized to carry concealed and unconcealed firearms. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, is one of them, as is the state’s only living former Democratic governor, Mark W. White Jr. These license holders, just 3.7 percent of the state’s 27 million residents, are a symbol of the nation’s culture wars and a subject of scrutiny, state pride, controversy and curiosity.


— 1,017,618: People in Texas licensed to carry handguns


As of April 30, there were 1,017,618 active handgun license holders in Texas, according to the state agency that oversees the process, the Department of Public Safety. That means there are more people in Texas with permission to carry a gun than there are residents of the city of Fort Worth. Texas’ numbers far exceed those in several other states. Oklahoma has more than 251,000. South Carolina has 276,084. Washington state, 534,978. Tennessee, 555,865. But at least one state has more license holders: Florida, with 1,743,954.


However, Texas, with 5,672 permits issued per 100,000 adults 21 and over, is not the state with the most gun permits per capita. Florida (11,965 permits per 100,000 adults), Tennessee (11,851 per 100,000 adults) and Washington state (10,635 per 100,000 adults) are some of the leaders by that measure.


— 139,563: License holders in the state’s most populous county


The county with the most license holders — 139,563 — is Harris, which includes Houston and is the most populous county in Texas, with 4.5 million residents. More people are licensed to be armed in Harris County than in the entire state of Louisiana (94,638 license holders).


The county with the fewest license holders is also the state’s smallest: Loving County in rural West Texas. Of the 112 residents, four have licenses, according to the Department of Public Safety and census data. One is the county judge, Skeet Lee Jones, 65, the county’s top elected official.


Asked if he was armed as he spoke on the phone recently, Jones said that technically he was not. But, he added, “I have one in my desk drawer.”


— 18: Minimum age to get a license


Generally, applicants to carry a handgun in Texas must be at least 21. An exception is made for members of the military: Active-duty military personnel who are at least 18 are eligible for a license. Those with gun permits are generally much older, however. Of the 1 million statewide, 22,871 are 55 years old, the largest age group of license holders.


In January, a law took effect giving those with concealed-weapon permits the option of openly carrying their firearm in a shoulder or hip holster. But in the months since, few have embraced so-called open carry. “That’s showing off,” White, the former governor, said. “I just think that’s unbecoming.”


— 6: Maximum hours of classroom instruction required


Texans licensed to carry a handgun — the state does not require a permit to carry a rifle or shotgun — invest both time and money. Applicants submit their fingerprints, complete four to six hours of classroom training and take a written exam. They must also pass a shooting test overseen by a state-certified instructor, as well as a criminal background check. Those with felony convictions, restraining orders against them, and other legal or mental health issues are ineligible.


— $140: Cost of an application


First-time applicants must pay the state $140. The application fee for a license renewal is $70. There are additional costs, including for fingerprinting services. Some pay more than others. Those in the military pay no application fees. Older residents get a discount. And, with one of the highest poverty rates in the country, Texas makes an unusual offer to its poor: a so-called indigent discount for handgun applicants. Those below the federal poverty threshold pay a reduced rate of $70 for a first-time application and $35 for a license renewal.


— 268,200: Women with Texas gun licenses


The 1 million are made up of 268,200 women and 749,418 men, according to the Department of Public Safety. Most of those men and women — 873,166 — are white, but the agency’s data is limited: It includes race but not ethnicity, such as Hispanic. Of the rest, 67,952 are black, 22,115 are Asian or Pacific Islander, and 4,126 are American Indian or Alaskan Native. An additional 12,936 identify as multiracial, and 37,323 are listed as other or unknown.


— 113,640: Gun licenses issued in 1996


The Texas Legislature passed the concealed-handgun law in 1995, and it took effect the next year. Gun-rights advocates like to point out that the Legislature at the time was not majority Republican, as it is now, but majority Democrat. In December 1996, there were 113,640 people with active licenses. Over nearly 20 years, roughly 904,000 would be added to the gun-license rolls.


“I’d say those who predicted shootouts at four-way stops need to apologize to the rest of us,” said Jerry Patterson, the former state senator and Marine fighter-jet pilot who wrote the 1995 law.


To Learn More:

            New Texas Law to Allow Guns in University Classrooms (by John Herskovitz, Reuters)

Texas Lobbyists Use Concealed Gun Permits to Avoid Long Security Lines at State Capitol (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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