BY ANGIE HAFLICH
Concealed carry permit applications in the state of Kansas increased dramatically in January, and the rising interest can be seen in Finney County in the form of dramatically increased enrollment in Garden City Community College's concealed carry courses.
According to a press release from the Kansas Attorney General's Office, Kansans set a one-month record in January for the number of new concealed carry handgun permit applications. The Attorney General's Concealed Carry Handgun Unit received 3,167 applications in January. The previous one-month record was March 2012, when 1,651 Kansans applied for concealed carry permits.
Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue said that there has been a drastic increase recently in Finney County.
"Sixty-five total for the month of January — 46 men and 19 women. So that is 65 for the month of January. That is a significant number," Bascue said, adding that there were 10 in one day last month. "Just from my recollection, those totals are higher than they have been. To me, what's significant about that number is 19 women, so it's not just applications being done by men."
Linda Morgan, director at GCCC's department of public safety, said she has seen a wide variety of people taking the concealed carry course.
"We have people from every single walk of life. We've got pastors, we've got teachers, we've got doctors, we've got lawyers, we've got farmers, we've got Walmart workers — everybody from every walk of life," Morgan said. "A lot of people that are coming maybe because their spouse passed away, they live alone, they're traveling on the road by themselves. It's all about being able to protect yourself. It's all about protection, and that's what I'm finding."
The course prepares individuals to apply to the state for a permit, but Morgan said that not everyone who completes the course gets a permit.
"I would say there's a lot of people that take the class, look at their responsibility and say, 'I'm not sure I want to accept that,' so they don't apply for their license," Morgan said. "It's good. We want them to think through that. That's why we have the class."
She said that the eight-hour course, usually held on Saturdays or Sundays, is typically offered only once a month. But because of recent demand, the college has added additional courses — two in January and four in February.
In 2011, 105 people took the concealed carry course. In 2012, 146 took the course, and as of Feb. 1 of this year, 91 people have taken the course so far.
While the course teaches gun handling, shooting basics and safety, Morgan said that a large portion of it deals with the law.
"They talk about the legal issues relating to use of force, and they go through the Family Protection Act, who can and who can't have handguns, and then they go through a lot of law — statutes, criminal statutes, use of force, who you can protect, what you can protect, self-defense, where you can carry and where you can't," Morgan said.
She said that there are other instructors in western Kansas who also teach the course.
"You don't have to belong to a college to teach this. You just have to be a licensed instructor through the Kansas Attorney General's Office," she said.
Morgan also said there have been significant enrollment increases in the National Rifle Association's Women on Target course, which teaches gun handling, safety, ammunition, shooting and marksmanship skills.
"An 80-year old lady came out and took our Woman on Target class," she said. "As a matter of fact, with concealed carry, as well, we have lots of families come in and take classes. They take them together. We have mothers and daughters who do the Women on Target, too."
The next one-day Kansas concealed carry course is being offered 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the John Collins Vocational Building at GCCC. The same one-day class will be offered for ladies only on Sunday.
Pre-registration for the basic firearms or concealed carry course is required and is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or 276-9629. The cost is $125 per person.
GCCC's next National Rifle Association's Women on Target basic firearms class is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 16 and is $70 per person.