Firearms' instructors report full classes for required training
CHAMPAIGN — State police can't pinpoint when that historic first batch of concealed-carry permits will go out, only that it looks like it'll be at least another month.
But 30 days into the complex approval process, no applications from Champaign or Vermilion county have been flagged, State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.
Under the new law, local authorities — including police and sheriff's departments — have 30 days to review applications. It's the biggest hurdle to certification — they can object to any applicant they believe poses a threat to the public, which has reportedly happened 236 times statewide. State police have 90 days to approve or deny applicants who are cleared by local officials.
In all, Bond said, state police had logged 32,968 applications — including 494 from Champaign County and 254 from Vermilion County — at last count.
The state gets updated application numbers every Tuesday and Friday, Bond said, making it likely the total will grow when the new numbers come in today.
Local application totals should surge, as well, based on the brisk business instructors have reported in their concealed-carry courses. Illinois requires applicants to complete a 16-hour training course before accepting their applications.
Monday marked the first day the public could shoot at the High Caliber Training Center and Indoor Range, and at one point, every lane of the Urbana facility was full, owner Tim Murray said.
A state-certified instructor, Murray said about 200 people have completed his concealed-carry course since the fall — and there has been no sign of slowing down.
"It's been pretty steady — even with the weather," Murray said.
It's the same story with Dan Auterman's Vermilion Valley Regional Training Group, which will host its largest class this weekend. Auterman usually limits classes to 17 students but opted to extend it to 21 — just to accommodate his waiting list.
Auterman is now scheduling people as far out as April. He believes more applicants are turning up now because the weather will be improving soon.
That can't happen soon enough, as far as Auterman is concerned. The only complaint he has had so far: that the shooting range is too cold. It was 2 degrees at the outdoor range during one of his classes this past month.
Paul Nurmi, an instructor from Mahomet, warns his students ahead of time to dress warmly for range shooting days like Monday.
"We were all pretty cold," said Nurmi, who gave out hand warmers and kept two vehicles running the whole time, so his students could warm up if they needed.
Nurmi purposely limits his classes to 10, so he can have more control. He said he's had 30 people complete his course already and has his next two classes filled.
Jim Sandquist, an instructor with Crossline Defense in St. Joseph, said 130 students from various counties have completed their course, which has been held almost every weekend since the end of November.
"It's been a real steady stream," said Sandquist, who added that there was a rush at first from those who wanted to get their permits right away. He said others have waited to see if the state's application process would get off the ground in early January.
The instructors agree: The large majority of students coming through their courses will make responsible firearms carriers.
"They want to be able to protect themselves and their families, and I haven't seen any coming through with a big bravado attitude," Auterman said.
Nurmi said all of his students have been able to qualify in the shooting component of the course. In Illinois, applicants must pass an accuracy exercise by shooting 10 rounds at 5 yards, 10 rounds at 7 yards and 10 rounds at 10 yards.
Sandquist said the vast majority of his students have had experience with guns and know how to handle them properly. But he said he refused to pass a few students didn't display safe operating skills with a handgun.
For instance, he said, some couldn't keep their finger off the trigger, or they didn't present their firearm in the proper way.
"It's not just about hitting the target," Sandquist said.
Nurmi said about 40 percent of his students reported that they either don't plan to conceal-carry or haven't decided. Sandquist said about half of his students want to conceal-carry — but only in their vehicles.
"They just want to exercise their constitutional right," he said.
Sandquist has also had students who have told him they had no idea about the legal responsibility that goes with concealed-carrying — and decided not to even apply for a permit.
"It might be the best money they ever spent if they took the class and realized they shouldn't do it," he said.