Want to Carry a Gun? First Pass the Tests

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With all the reports of active-shooter incidents, school shootings and criminal activity, it’s no wonder that the number of people seeking concealed-carry training is growing.

“You look at what’s going on in the world and I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. It’s about protecting your family, protecting yourself,” says Rick Baker, vice president of The Training Range in Austintown.

Baker says he saw a spike in the number of women taking concealed-carry classes last year, but noted it’s leveled off to its usual mark of women comprising about 30% of the 500 to 600 students he sees every year.

Elsewhere, though, firearms stores are seeing more women and first-time shooters. Chris Albert, owner of Gun Monkey Supply in North Lima, says about 75% of those in his training sessions are women, many of whom are infrequent gun users.

“We like it because there’s no bad habits to break at that point. It’s easier to take someone who’s never shot and teach them,” he says. “That’s most of our clientele for the CCW class.”

Getting a concealed-carry permit, or CCW, begins with an eight-hour course at a licensed training site approved by either the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission, national advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association, or other firearms training schools.

The course covers how to handle firearms and ammunition, the laws of handling weapons and storage practices, as well as the “attitude necessary to shoot a handgun in a safe manner,” according to the handbook of the office of the Ohio attorney general, which is available both in print and online.

Included in that training is what to do if, after you’ve received your CCW permit, police stop you what constitutes a no-carry zone and dispute resolution.

“That’s the biggest thing. The gun is like a fire extinguisher; you have one in your house but you don’t want to use it,” Albert says. “Ultimately, if you can avoid having to pull your gun, that’s a good day. We teach situational awareness so they can avoid that mix altogether.”

CCW instructors are required to be certified by the same organizations that certify training sites. Albert completed his training at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy through a two-week course. The NRA also hosts classes to train CCW instructors.

“They teach you how to teach, how to take the information and break it down for someone who may have never shot a gun,” Albert says of the police academy course.

“It covers safety issues, which isn’t just bullets going down range. There’s a big problem with lead exposure. And we talked about what to do for a medical accident, from a gunshot wound to a bee sting.”

After the six-hour classroom portion, applicants take an open-book test on the course material before heading to the shooting range for live-fire training. There they must demonstrate proficiency with a handgun, either one of their own or one rented from the course provider.

The course, notes Training Range manager Tim Meggitt, is taken pass-fail.

“If you’re all over the place, the instructor has to spend some more time with you. We’ve had one person fail and he failed for safety issues,” Meggitt says. “He came in with a concealed gun. There’s a sign on the classroom door that says absolutely no firearms and he didn’t have a permit either.”

Once an applicant has passed the course, the county sheriff must sign off on the permit. Last year, 77,821 new permits were issued in Ohio and 54,064 were renewed.

Permits are to be renewed every five years, although no continuing education is required, something the trainers recommend against.

“People forget how a magazine comes out. They fumble around. They can’t get it loaded. And you can’t be that way if you’re carrying a gun,” says The Training Range’s Baker.

Adds Albert, “Shooting is a perishable skill. We’re huge advocates of continuing training, whether it’s through us or other people.”

With a permit, licensees are free to carry concealed handguns in all but a few places as long as they carry with them proper ID and paperwork. Among the restricted areas are law enforcement and government offices, airports, places of worship and school property.

Employers may impose bans on carrying firearms in the workplace, but must allow permit holders to store guns in secured compartments in their vehicle.

“It has to be secured in the vehicle, either in a box designed for that purpose or some other manner of locking the weapon. And [the vehicle] can only be parked where it can legitimately be parked,” says attorney Timothy Jacob of Manchester, Newman and Bennett.

The law went into effect in March 2017 and has since been amended to included what recourse employees have if the law is violated, notes Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell partner Martin Boetcher.

“The General Assembly added a section that says if an employer violates the statute, the employee can file a civil action for injunctive relief,” Boetcher says. “The statute doesn’t answer the question of whether the employee could file a wrongful discharge suit. There’s some uncertainty there.”

For the businesses offering CCW courses, the providers say offering such training serves as an avenue into developing new customers.

“Once you come in for a CCW, then you need to get a holster and then you may see something else you want, so it all goes hand-in-hand,” Baker says. “We encourage people to come back and use the range to keep proficient.”

And for Albert, providing a good experience in a training course is a chance for a good first impression, considering that most of those in his classes are first-time shooters.

“We’re open about the training and we tell stories about what we’ve done or seen,” Albert says. “This just opens the door for someone who isn’t a shooter to show them that this isn’t a scary world.”

Pictured: Rick Baker says The Training Range in Austintown offers classes required for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. In 2017, Ohio issued 78,000 new concealed-carry permits.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.