Following up on the post from Friday, about the State of Texas threatening to revoke certification of a Texas man who ran a radio ad stating he won’t teach muslims, I have some additional thoughts for folks who are troubled by this. Let me state up front that this whole issue is an example of why requiring training to exercise a right is problematic. If this guy were in Pennsylvania, where we do not require training, this would be largely a non-issue, because the man would be free to teach whoever the hell he wanted, and not much would be implicated in terms of the right to bear arms. He is still free to teach or not teach who he wants in Texas, but the question at hand is whether it’s appropriate for the State of Texas to prohibit discrimination as a condition of holding a certification to teach their required concealed carry course.
My position is that it’s not inappropriate for the state to mandate this. By the state issuing instructor credentials, and requiring anyone wishing to carry a firearm to take instruction from a certified instructor, it makes those instructors an instrument of the state, and an instrument of state policy. In this instance, I believe the state may instruct the people carrying out its public policy that they may not discriminate. In fact, I believe that’s what’s morally required, given the exercise of a right is at stake.
I’ll put this in different terms, since prejudice against muslims is more prevalent today, and not as widely condemned. I’ll take it back 80 years or so, to the Jim Crow era. Texas has the same policy, except they allow discrimination by certified instructors. You’re a black man, and want to get a permit. You can’t find any white instructor who will teach you, and there aren’t any black instructors in your area because getting the certification is difficult and expensive, and there are only a handful of black instructors in the whole state. For the most part, this hypothetical black man has been disenfranchised out of his right to bear arms. If I were a fair minded federal judge, and this case came before me, I’d toss the training requirement, and make it clear to the State of Texas that it either needed to fix the discrimination problem, or go without training.
I don’t like training being a condition of accessing a right, because the cost alone puts its exercise out of reach of many. In my opinion, if the state is going to require training to access a right, it had damned well do its best to make sure the required training is widely available and affordable, and part of that can be an anti-discrimination policy that applies to instructors that are certified by the state under its training program.
Many states solve this problem by either not requiring training, or accepting privately certified instruction, and perhaps Texas should as well. That would largely remove the state from the equation in regards to this guy in Texas, though I would still argue if he were NRA certified, he should lose that certification too because I just flatly don’t agree with the kind of discrimination he’s practicing on general principle, and NRA, as a private entity, is perfectly free to set non-discrimination policies for the instructors it certifies.