Students flocking to local concealed-carry instructors

Paul Trost of Huntley on Sunday graduated his first class of students seeking an Illinois concealed-carry permit.

He had four students. This coming weekend, he and another instructor will buddy up to train 30 of his fellow co-workers at a rural private range.

Instructor David Conrad Jr. with Anywhere CCW, a Richmond business that teaches firearms courses, said the company is constantly booking new concealed-carry classes to accommodate the demand.

Local residents who are certified to give the necessary classes anticipate business is going to keep rising. There are 34 people in McHenry County, and 1,169 statewide to date, who are authorized to give the 16-hour block of instruction needed to get permission to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois.

Right now, classes are mostly filled with gun enthusiasts who have been waiting for decades for an Illinois concealed-carry law, Conrad said. But he expects the demand – which he already calls “absolutely phenomenal” – to pick up further as rank-and-file firearms owners seek the license.

“Right now, a lot of people taking the classes now are your strong Second Amendment supporters, and once people start hearing about the classes, it’s going to grow in size and number substantially over the next six months,” Conrad said Monday.

Illinois is the last state in the union to allow citizens some form of carrying handguns in public. Illinois State Police applications for people who have completed the course from a certified instructor will be available starting in January – the agency estimates that 400,000 people will apply next year for permits.

Lawmakers in the last days of the spring session May 31 hashed out a bill authorizing concealed carry to comply with a 2012 federal court ruling striking down Illinois’ ban. They overrode an amendatory veto by Gov. Pat Quinn in July, one week before the ban was set to expire under an extended court order.

Local instructors prior to the ban’s repeal have taught the course needed to get concealed-carry permits for Utah and Florida because those permits are recognized in 35 states. Illinois’ new concealed-carry law does not recognize out-of-state permits, but has a provision regarding people with such permits who are traveling through.

Trost, who lived for 20 years in Florida, has mixed praise for Illinois’ new law – he said it could have ended up a lot worse. Gun laws in Illinois have been a mixed bag because of the differences between Chicago legislators, who advocate strict gun control, and downstate lawmakers – Democrats and Republicans alike – who support gun rights.

“For Illinois, it’s a pretty good law. But it’s limited – there’s a patchwork of places where you can and can’t carry, which brings a huge liability to the law-abiding citizen,” Trost said.

Illinois’ new law is among the more stringent in the nation. Applicants must pay a $150 fee – the fee is $300 for out-of-state residents – and must complete a 16-hour training course, the longest of any state. Applicants also must have a valid state Firearm Owners Identification card.

A permit is good for five years, and renewing it requires taking a three-hour refresher course. The course requirement is halved to eight hours for honorably discharged members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The class standards released by the state police include a minimum of two hours on firearm safety, three hours on basic marksmanship, three hours on care and handling of a concealable firearm, four hours on applicable state and federal laws and four hours on weapons handling and live fire.

The law forbids carrying in a number of locations, such as parks, mass transit, bars and dining establishments where more than half of the revenue comes from alcohol sales. Businesses also have the right to ban concealed weapons from their premises. The state police last week released the state-mandated sign – a silhouette of a semi-automatic handgun with a red line through it.

The law also includes increased mental health reporting requirements and allows local law enforcement to object to granting a license to anyone they feel is a danger to himself or others.

But Trost said that he – and any responsible instructor – already do that. He said he is very selective about who he instructs – many of his students were approached by him, not the other way around.

“I’m very pro-gun, but there are people out there who shouldn’t carry them,” Trost said.

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