Summit County citizens schooled on concealed weapons
August 24, 2009
KEYSTONE – Summit County may soon have a new batch of licensed concealed weapon holders, after Sunday’s well-attended firearms class at the Keystone Fire Station.Carrying a concealed weapon requires completion of the class, as well as two hours of training on a shooting range, said instructor Phil McFall, explaining that students also take a 50-question exam at the end of the session.After completing the course, people can apply with the Sheriff’s Office for a permit. Colorado law authorizes citizens 18 years and older to carry concealed weapons as long as they don’t have any felonies on their record. Alcohol or drug-related charges are grounds for suspension of the permit until the charges are legally resolved.Statewide, the number of concealed weapon permits has climbed in the past few years, according to a 2008 story in the Denver Post. Some sheriffs attributed the rise to a series of highly publicized shootings, while others said the increase was simply due to a round of renewals of expiring five-year permits.Other statewide statistics show that crime rates in Colorado have dropped in recent years, although the most recent available figures are from 2007. Some studies suggest states that permit concealed weapons have seen some types of confrontational crime drop, but other researchers say it’s a complex equation and that there is no direct correlation between permitted concealed weapons and crime rates.Although Summit County is a low-crime area, people still shouldn’t be complacent, Deputy District Attorney Kristine Word told the class. She said that gang activity is on the increase in the area, and said the February armed robbery at the Kum & Go in Silverthorne, as well as an increasing number of sexual assaults, have highlighted concerns about violent crime in Summit County.”Last year was the big year for people stabbing each other,” Word said, explaining the rationale for self-defense.”You can’t get complacent,” said McFall, who teaches six to 10 classes per year. The aim of the course is to show people how to carry and use firearms responsibly in threatening situations. Part of the instruction covered applicable Colorado statutes, including the “make-my-day” law that gives people the right to defend themselves, others and their homes with deadly force.At the same time, Word and McFall cautioned that avoidance is the key to personal safety.”You should be thinking about how you will avoid using it. You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water,” she said.Not everyone at the class necessarily will end up carrying a concealed weapon.”I’ve been a hunter since I was 12,” said Dan Holtz. Sunday’s class was an opportunity to gain familiarity with handguns, Holtz said.”I don’t know if I’ll apply for a concealed weapon permit,” he said.Frisco police Sgt. Jim Donahue also offered a brief presentation at the class, emphasizing that he was there on his own time as a private citizen, not as a representative of the town’s police department.”Having an armed populace, in my opinion, if they are licensed and properly trained, is a good thing,” Donahue said. “The key to this whole thing is training.”It’s a force multiplier for us,” he added, explaining that there are certain situations when police can use the help of armed citizens.