Packing heat: Number of people in Grand County seeking handgun permits soars | SkyHiDailyNews.com

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Packing heat: Number of people in Grand County seeking handgun permits soars

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

The number of people in Grand County seeking permits to carry a concealed handgun increased by 283 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Statewide, the increase was 212 percent, and the trend shows few signs of abating.

“We just haven’t seen an end to it,” said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.

County sheriff’s departments are the issuing agencies for carry and conceal permits under a 2003 Colorado law.

That law, said Johnson, also mandates that if applicants meet the criteria, sheriffs “shall” issue a permit, as opposed to the previous law, which said sheriffs “may” issue a permit.

Political impetus

“We believe it started with the presidential election,” the sheriff said of the rapid acceleration in the number of people seeking the permits.

He said permit-seekers often volunteer political views regarding Second Amendment issues and that many of them recently have expressed concerns about the Democrats controlling Congress and the White House.

Democrats traditionally are more inclined than Republicans to favor gun-control legislation.

“I believe that citizens have the right to own and carry” firearms, Johnson said. “Permit holders have never caused me any problems.”

“I’ve carried a handgun my entire life,” said Jackie Woods, a Grand County resident who has had a carry and conceal permit since 1993. “And I’ve never used one” in a self-defense situation, he added.

Woods’ experience is typical, Johnson said.

“Most people never have to face a self-defense issue in their entire life,” the sheriff said.

Woods said he sought a permit so he wouldn’t run afoul of the City and County of Denver’s laws, which, contrary to state law, at one time made it illegal to carry a concealed weapon in a vehicle without a permit. He said he used to conduct business in the city regularly and wanted to be protected without having to worry about being prosecuted for carrying a handgun in his car.

“It’s rare that I ever carry a gun on my person,” Woods said.

Johnson said many permit holders often don’t carry a gun except in specific circumstances, particularly in vehicles.

‘Heavy responsibility’

Carrying a handgun is “not to be taken lightly,” Johnson said.

One prerequisite for obtaining a permit is that applicants complete certified training. At a minimum, the courses cover handgun use and safety and laws regarding use of force. In Johnson’s mind, that is just the beginning.

“The one thing I would say to people who plan on carrying a gun is to be very familiar with the gun itself ” practice, practice, practice,” he said. “And they need to be very, very familiar with the use-of-force laws.”

In addition, “You have to be very much mentally ready to take on that decision-making responsibility,” he added, if a situation should arise in which a permit-holder has to use a firearm.

“I feel a person needs specific training,” Woods said. “I think it’s a good thing they have that mandatory course.”

“It’s a very heavy responsibility,” Johnson said.

Where permit holders may carry

Under Colorado law, concealed handgun permit holders may carry everywhere except:

– In schools

– In buildings that have security devices intended to prevent weapons from entering

– In the Colorado Capitol or at any hearing of the Colorado Legislature

– In national parks (this is the subject of ongoing litigation)

– Permit holders may carry in 28 other states including Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming (Source: Colorado Bureau of Investigation, whose Web site contains a list of states offering reciprocity)

Colorado weapons laws

– It is illegal to possess or use any firearm when the user is intoxicated

– It is legal to carry a concealed handgun with or without a permit on one’s property or property under one’s control and within a vehicle

– It is illegal to carry a rifle or shotgun with the chamber loaded in a vehicle

– Unless restricted by local laws, it is legal to carry a loaded handgun in plain view (everywhere in Grand County, according to the sheriff, except in the restricted areas listed above)

” Drew can be reached at (970) 887-3334 ext. 19610 or at dmunro@skyhidailynews.com