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Permitless gun carry doesn't diminish importance of training, say Waco-area police chiefs

Permitless gun carry doesn't diminish importance of training, say Waco-area police chiefs

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For some, the permitless carry measure poised to become state law often sparks the idea that if a Texan were ever faced with a dangerous situation, like one of 11 mass shootings that took place over Mother’s Day weekend, they would be better equipped to protect themselves and their loved ones if they could carry a gun in public without a permit. However, for professionals who handle guns on a daily basis, responding properly in those situations takes more than just access to a gun, it takes practice and education.

“Any time that someone is confronted with violence there is an emotional reaction,” said Brian Konzelman, chief instructor at CenTex Gun Training. “That needs to be anticipated, and they need to have training to be able to respond in a reasonable fashion.”

Konzelman, who has been an instructor for 45 years, said the reason people freeze during highly stressful situations is because they do not have the training needed to react in a way that is helpful.

In order to learn how to properly react and stay calm, Konzelman believes training is necessary.

However, required training is an aspect of carrying a gun that might soon not be required if Gov. Greg Abbott signs House Bill 1927 into law.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, would allow Texas residents to be able to carry handguns in public without a license, if they are not otherwise prohibited from having a gun. Currently, residents are required to obtain a license to carry a gun. They must also submit fingerprints, complete training, pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test.

The state Senate approved the bill with an 18-13 vote, and after reconciliation with a House-approved version, it is expected to make its way to the governor.

According to the Texas Tribune, Abbott told North Texas radio host Rick Roberts he believes “we should have constitutional carry in Texas,” and that he would sign the bill into law.

“Constitutional carry,” or being allowed to carry without a permit, already applies to the carrying of a rifle in public in the state of Texas.

While Abbott has said he is ready to sign the bill, many law enforcement officials have voiced concerns.

According to the WFAA TV station, the Dallas Police Department called it “irresponsible” to let untrained people carry firearms.

In McLennan County, police chiefs are also raising questions regarding safety.

Lacy Lakeview Chief John Truehitt, whose law enforcement career includes serving as a special agent with the FBI, said gun safety is extremely important and should not be “taken lightly.”

“I think that there are some problems with it,” Truehitt said of the bill under consideration. “The ownership and carry of a firearm carries tremendous responsibility to exercise it with good judgement and training.”

Truehitt said that while he understands some people grew up around guns, like he did, the idea of someone being able to carry despite not being taught how to properly handle a gun is concerning.

Konzelman, the local instructor, recommends a minimum of 4 hours of introductory training to learn how to properly handle a gun.

“If you wanted to be confident and competent, it would require many hours of practice and training,” Konzelman said.

The amount of training needed depends on how someone is going to use a gun, he said.

“Hunting or recreational shooting or for self-defense, each use required a different type of training. They all use the same tool but the way that you use it is different in each of those situations,” Konzelman said.

Robinson Police Chief Rich Andreucci said the average person should go through training.

“Some people grew up around weapons and they have been using them since they were young, and no amount of training is going to make them better,” Andreucci said. “But for the average person, I believe they should go through training so they are comfortable and it reduces the risk of them either accidentally shooting someone else or themselves.”

Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said people need to really ask themselves if they are going to be able to handle a crisis situation with a gun.

“Ask yourself deep down. What will you be accountable for legally?” Devlin said.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who taught license-to-carry courses for eight years, said a benefit of taking a course is that it teaches participants the most important thing he believes someone who wants to carry should know: the background of the law.

McNamara said people have the right to carry and protect themselves, but they need to know where they are legally allowed to carry and the repercussions of carrying and using the weapon.

“They teach you when to use deadly force and when not to, where to carry and where not to,” McNamara said. “A law abiding citizen can get jammed up by carrying their firearm in the wrong place.”

With proper knowledge, McNamara believes “a firearm in the right hands is definitely a good equalizer against evil.”

“In my 50 years of law enforcement I’ve seen so many people that were victims, either brutalized or killed because they did not have protection, and if any of those had a firearm and knew how to use it they would probably be alive today,” McNamara said.

“I and our department are very strong advocates of our Second Amendment rights.”

Police officials are also questioning how allowing anyone to carry will play out when it comes to trying to resolve issues with multiple guns engaged.

“I believe we should have the right to own and purchase firearms but I believe constitutional carry makes it a little difficult for police,” Andreucci said. “It makes it hard to figure out who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.”

Truehitt said that scenario is one of his biggest fears.

“Put yourself in a police officer’s shoes for a moment. You are a police officer and you are off-duty and you are shopping at Walmart and you have a gun and an active shooter unfolds in your presence,” Truehitt said. “How do you know the good guys from the bad guys? Who are you going to engage? How do you know an active shooter from someone who is trying to engage with that shooter?”

However, Devlin said Hewitt Police officials have discussed the issue and do not believe it is going to change too much about how their agency handles weapons.

“Even today we run across several people a day in our contacts that have a handgun through the licensing program,” Devlin said. “I think the large number of the people we are going to encounter in the future are the license holders we have today.”

State House Reps. Kyle Kacal and Charles “Doc” Anderson, Republicans whose districts include the Waco area, signed on as co-authors of the bill. They did not respond to requests for comment on how police departments could address their the issues they are concerned with, should they come up.

If permitless carry is signed into law, license-to-carry classes would no longer be required, but Konzelman hopes more people will sign up for classes anyway.

“With the potential increase in the number of people who decide that they do want to exercise their Second Amendment right and carry on their person, many will realize quickly that they are not prepared to deploy that tool in an emergency situation without training,” Konzelman said. “In the end it is my hope that more people will actually want to take gun handling training so there might be an increase in the number of people that want to learn how to handle a gun safely.”

“The ownership and carry of a firearm carries tremendous responsibility to exercise it with good judgement and training.”

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Hailing from the Chicagoland area, Amaris E. Rodriguez is a 2019 graduate of Northeastern Illinois University and formerly worked the Journal & Topics news organization in Des Plains, Illinois.

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