Steamboat Springs High demand for concealed weapon permits, in part prompted by large-scale acts of violence across the country, means the Routt County Sheriff's Office is offering more training opportunities than ever before.
Back in 2002, the Sheriff's Office only taught two concealed weapons classes a year. Last year, citizen demand prompted the Sheriff's Office to lead five courses, and Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger expects even more this year after first-come, first-serve registration for last month's course filled up in only two hours.
"The carry classes are always full," Routt County Rifle Club President Bryan Tuck said.
"When they get ready to do a class, there's always a huge line of people waiting at 7:30 in the morning to sign up. Good grief."
State laws are impacting local gun ownership as well.
"In 2003, the state of Colorado went to a shall-issue state, so we had a huge wave of them," Klinger said. In order to be issued a concealed weapons permit, the applicant must meet a series of criteria, including achieving a certain level of gun safety education and passing a background check.
In 2003, 173 people in Routt County had a permit. Klinger said last month that "hundreds" of people now have a concealed weapon permit in Routt County.
Because permits are good for five years, the county is experiencing a second wave of applications as the majority of the 2003 group of permit-holders returns to renew their permits, Klinger said.
"There's still a very heavy interest in this community for individuals to have concealed weapons permits," Klinger said. "I see it going up again even more this year, between the reissues and the new permits."
Last year, the demand for concealed weapons permits shot up most markedly in May, which Klinger attributed to current events at the time.
"The common thread there seemed to be concern over the Virginia Tech shooting. It's about self-empowerment," Klinger said. "We saw the same spike in 2001, after the terrorist attacks."
In addition to those who are motivated to seek permits for personal protection, others want a concealed carry permit because they "believe in handguns," Tuck said.
"People have a right, and they want to exercise that right," Tuck said.
Concealed weapons permits can be revoked for reasons including felony convictions, domestic violence incidents, mental illness or drug addiction, or simply because of a change in residency, since each county administers permits differently.
In the past two years in Routt County, only two concealed weapons permits have been suspended or revoked. One was suspended while an out-of-county criminal case proceeded; the other was revoked after a domestic violence conviction, at which point a person can no longer own or possess a firearm.
"This is typical statewide - very, very few are rescinded or revoked," Klinger said.
Now in its ninth year, the two-day concealed weapons training course taught by the Routt County Sheriff's Office is one of the most comprehensive in the state, Klinger said.
"The state just says that you have to take a handgun safety course," he said. "There are instructors on the Front Range that are teaching these classes in somewhere between four and six hours."
Routt County concealed carry permit-hopefuls start with classroom instruction, reviewing the Colorado Revised Statutes that relate to the use of deadly force.
"We try to clear up a lot of misconceptions. A lot of people think that if there's someone in your house, you can just blast them - and that's definitely not true," Klinger said.
Courses then move to the range where people get to practice their shooting from all types of conditions - no light and lowlight, as if seated or in a vehicle.
"By the end of the second day, they're shooting from positions of cover, they are shooting and moving. They're doing all the things they may need to do if they become involved in a deadly situation as a private citizen," Klinger said.
Approximately 35 percent of class attendees are female, Klinger said.
The Routt County Rifle Club, which hosts the concealed weapons course, also offers a variety of training including a first-time shooters course and women and youth programs. A skeet league and beginner's trap and skeet begin this month.
"It'd be nice to see more women and youngsters out there," Tuck said.
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