Sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning, party or parties unknown slipped a column, clipped from the Austin American Statesman, under the door of my office. More or less. They really just wadded it into the crack between the door and the jam, but writing that in the opening sentence of this column would have made it way too long, and I’m pretty careful about making sentences too long, with too many commas and such, because people, I think, are pretty sensitive about that sort of thing, and might decide to quit reading right there, if you make such a stupid blunder right off the bat.
Anyway, I have no idea who brought this column by, but I’d like to say thanks, not only because it’s a good column, but because I needed something to write about Sunday night when I got home from Port Aransas. My wife and I left for the coast on Thursday to attend the annual Texas Outdoor Writers Association conference, because they haven’t figured out a way to kick me out yet. We got in late Sunday night, and I needed to get a column written in a hurry. I had put it off till the last minute, as usual, and whoever brought the column by saved my bacon.
The article was written by Ken Herman, and the title is ‘Funny how a guy with a gun can really hold things up.’ That’s a sort of play on words. You know, a joke about holdups, in which guns are used, as opposed to what Ken really meant, which is that people don’t know how to act sometimes when faced with someone who has a Concealed Handgun License. We writers like to use those little literary devices sometimes, because they make us sound clever. Or something.
Ken’s column is about the experiences of our state Land Commissioner, Jerry Patterson, who pushed hard to get the CHL law passed in Texas back when he was a state senator. Jerry has since been pushing just as hard to get CHLs approved as acceptable ID for voting and other stuff. Like at the bank, for example.
It seems Jerry pulled his CHL at his bank, and the teller rejected it on the grounds that it was against the law. Jerry pointed out this wasn’t true, and also that he had, in fact, written the law. So she again rejected it, saying she required a state photo ID issued by the DPS. Jerry showed her that the card had his picture on it, and was in fact issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety. So then she protested that it had to have his Texas Driver License number on it. It did.
The poor girl finally tried to tell Jerry that accepting his CHL as proof of ID wasn’t bank policy, which is, at best, about the lamest excuse anyone ever came up with, but it wasn’t her fault. She was just doing her job. She called her supervisor, and he agreed to accept the ID ‘this time’ because Jerry was a long-time customer. As if he were doing something he really shouldn’t.
Jerry’s point was that his CHL met every criteria required by law and the bank, except that it wasn’t on some list somewhere. Jerry wants to change that. He wants CHLs, by law, recognized as acceptable identification anywhere a TDL is. Which it should be.
As a matter of fact, a CHL is far better. It not only certifies the holder’s name and likeness, it also guarantees that person is not a criminal. No one with a felony conviction can acquire a CHL, from any state. And still people don’t quite know what to make of one when it’s presented to them.
Most Texas police officers have come to grips with the whole concept, although there are a few who don’t quite get it. There is a lingering sense of distrust among some officers toward citizens who would rather not depend on someone else for their own safety, as if the officers themselves might be attacked by people who have proven they have the sense not to break the law. But such officers are rare.
By and large, Texas police officers relax a little when they find out the driver they’ve stopped is a CHL holder, and with good reason. This is not true in places where the freedom of citizens is curtailed by government, such as Illinois. But then, that’s typical of poor administrators. People who aren’t trustworthy tend to distrust others.
I happened to witness a Texas CHL holder being stopped by an Illinois state trooper. When the officer was told the driver had a CHL, he acted as though the driver had said, "Oh, and by the way, there are three dead bodies in the trunk, a bag of stolen money in the back seat, and I poured gasoline on your mother’s azaleas this morning."
So, I’d like to thank whoever left me the AAS article. And I’d like to thank God for allowing me to live in Texas . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who uses his CHL to pick his guitar. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org