Texas gun instructor calls for amending civil rights law [Q&A]
A Texas gun instructor who drew scrutiny earlier this month after airing a radio advertisement refusing to train President Obama supporters, Muslims and certain Arabs has agreed not to discriminate against would-be customers under law, Texas officials said this week.
"Crockett Keller affirmed that he would not refuse concealed handgun license instruction to anyone based on national origin, race or religion," Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a statement released late Monday, adding, "The investigation is closed. DPS will have no additional comment at this time."
A clip of Keller's ad, which became popular online, shows him coolly informing listeners that Muslims and Obama supporters were not welcome at his firearms classes.
Keller, 65, originally aired the ad on a country music station near his home in Mason, Texas, about 100 miles west of Austin. It has been viewed more than 91,000 times on YouTube, sparking debates among viewers about terrorists and rednecks.
"If you are a socialist liberal and/or voted for the current campaigner in chief, please do not take this class," Keller says in the ad. "You've already proved that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as required under the law. Also, if you are a non-Christian Arab or Muslim, I will not teach you this class. Once again, with no shame, I am Crockett Keller."
The Times caught up with Keller by phone Tuesday at his store in Mason, Texas, which sells, among other things, guns.
How have people responded to your ad?
I have received thousands of phone calls since it aired, 30 to 1 in favor. The most polite phone calls I have gotten have been from admitted Muslims, which I think is curious. They ask politely about my stands and I respond politely. They’ve said, "There’s so many more moderate Muslims than radical Muslims," and I said, "I’m aware of that, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, but the moderate Muslims don’t attack the state.” It’s their responsibility to assimilate into the American culture.
Do you think excluding Muslims from your classes is discrimination?
I try to judge people individually, as opposed to a group. I know the ad did that. Occasionally you just have to do that.
How has demand been for your firearms classes after the ad aired?
I have had people send money because they couldn’t take the class. The class I had since the ad had six people. I hope you can be clear that you don't need a license to teach someone how to use a gun. I teach a 10-hour class on how to use firearms and a separate concealed-carry class with a proficiency test.
What's the most you teach in a class at a time?
I teach up to 10 people.
Is it difficult staying in control of that many people at a time?
You have to be stern. But I have a problem with being out on the range and having somebody with a pistol with 17 rounds in it; it doesn’t take long to start knocking off people if you have the wrong kind of students.
What does the Texas Department of Public Safety statement mean?
It was not a retraction of anything.
But does it mean that you are not going to deny instruction to Obama supporters, Muslims and certain Arabs?
In Texas, you don’t ask people how big their ranch is or what their religion is. That's just not polite. So it was kind of a moot point.
It sounds like you stand by the ad -- what have you learned from this controversy?
We have got to start speaking up. We are still the majority in the United States. It is the Judeo-Christian principles that we founded this country on that have made this country great.
So what happens now?
What’s going to have to happen now in my crusade or whatever you call it is the civil rights law will have to change. It’s absolutely ludicrous that the state should defend people who are out to destroy the state.
How do you think the civil rights law should change?
It would allow people to protect the country and the citizenry by refusing to teach people how to fly planes into buildings and to use handguns.
We need to amend the civil rights law to allow scrutiny and discrimination against any people attached to a group that has vowed the destruction of the United States, including the Black Panthers, Rev. Wright and radical Muslims. We need to have the right to protect our country. Protecting everybody’s rights has gone way too far.
How do you think civil rights laws should be changed?
It will be changed through the due process of law, not through protests. It needs to be changed through the appropriate channels.
It sounds like you still don't want to teach certain people, is that true?
I will definitely use a tremendous amount of discretion when it comes to who I will teach how to use a weapon.
But haven't there been terrorists who were not Muslim or Arab?
It's true that some terrorists have not been Muslim or Arab. But they have been involved in hundreds of terrorist acts.
So how do you know whom to screen out?
I would listen to people, listen to their comments to determine who wants to train and notify the state about any concerns I have about their safety or character -- by me being vigilant, trying to ascertain who’s who in my class and what their true needs are as far as a concealed-carry license.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston