Training required for Illinois residents who want to carry concealed firearms is off to a rousing start.
A fast-growing roster of concealed-carry instructors has begun offering classes around the state and many of the classes are filled well into next year.
As of Nov. 26, Illinois had approved some 1,735 instructors, including 42 in Madison County and 28 in St. Clair County.
“Obviously, it’s a boon,” Steven King, owner of the Belleville Indoor Shooting Range and Metro Shooting Supplies, said of the law that will allow licensed Illinois residents to carry concealed firearms beginning next year. Illinois was the last state in the nation to allow concealed carry.
“We’ve been waiting 10 years for this to happen,” King said. He said the range had been offering concealed-carry classes twice a month and a class typically attracted eight to 16 people. In October, the range began offering classes every weekend and has booked classes for the maximum 21 students each through the first weekend of January. King said handgun sales have also spiked since concealed-carry legislation became law in July.
“When people finally realized this was for real, they began buying concealed carry handguns, and we’ve been selling six to eight guns on average for every 21-member class,” King said. He expects the demand for handguns, training, shooting supplies and range time will remain high for at least 10 years. King charges $150 for eight hours of instruction and $300 for 16 hours.
The Illinois State Rifle Association estimates concealed carry will generate $1 billion of added economic activity over its first three years. Richard Pearson, the association’s executive director, said he thinks the actual impact could be more, perhaps as much as $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion.
Pearson said the largest impact would result from the training required for 300,000 to 400,000 people to qualify for concealed-carry permits. He said the remainder would come from the sale of handguns, ammunition, other shooting supplies and range time.
“If you’re in the gun business, it’s all good,” said John Mann, the owner of Mann & Son Sporting Goods in Pinckneyville. “I don’t look for this to slow down for a while.”
Mann said two of his employees were showing concealed-carry handguns to prospective customers when a reporter called.
State Police estimate they will issue about 300,000 concealed-carry permits in 2014. Applications will be available by Jan. 5 and it is expected that the first permits will be issued in April.
The new law requires permit applicants to successfully complete 16 hours of approved training, or eight hours for individuals with military experience or other acceptable prior training.
A 16-hour course must include instruction on: firearm safety; marksmanship; care, cleaning, loading and unloading a concealable firearm; transportation of a firearm; and appropriate interactions with law enforcement personnel when carrying or transporting a firearm.
King said prospective trainees should look for experienced instructors with appropriate facilities.
“If (an instructor) is holding classes in a basement or a garage and shooting .22s in the back yard, you probably should look elsewhere,” he said.
King said he tells trainees they should live their lives as if they were not carrying a firearm, avoid dangerous situations and shoot only to stop a threat.
Mark Owensby is a retired State Police officer who owns the indoor Rampart Range, off Interstate 70 in Pocahontas. He spent 25 years with the State Police and was a firearms instructor for most of that time. The range opened about four years ago.
“We have a big classroom and our own indoor range,” Owensby said. “All my instructors have law enforcement or military experience.”
Owensby charges $150 for the 16-hour, two day course. He said he aims to offer a quality product at a fair price.
Bronson Painter, a Glen Carbon police officer, offers concealed carry training through his company, Metro-East Firearms Training. Classes are held in a classroom and shooting range at Safety Partners Ltd. in Godfrey.
Painter has 18 years of law enforcement experience and is a police firearms instructor, an Illinois hunter safety instructor and a National Rifle Association basic pistol instructor.
He said instructors with law enforcement backgrounds have training and experience that others mostly lack.
“The average lay person can’t explain the appropriate use of force,” Painter said.
He said he would not hesitate to fail someone who should not be carrying a firearm. He said he dismissed one trainee for carelessness on the firing range and almost dismissed another over classroom conduct. Painter charges $175 for the 16-hour course, or $125 for the eight-hour course.
Howard Bolton Jr. of Troy is an executive with a St. Louis company and a longtime certified National Rifle Association instructor. He said he has more prospective trainees than time.
Bolton said he hadn’t failed a trainee yet but wouldn’t hesitate to do so, whether it be for ignorance, carelessness or poor marksmanship. He said a responsible gun owner needs to have appropriate skills, training and attitude.
“The attitude has to be absolute safety,” he said. “Once fired, a bullet has no conscience.” Bolton charges $225 for a 16-hour course, $175 for 12 hours $125 for eight hours.
For official Illinois concealed-carry information including a list of approved instructors and contact information, visit http://www.isp.state.il.us/firearms/ccw/.
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The phone number is (618) 205-8660.