By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Now that the state of Illinois has a mechanism in place to start accepting applications for concealed carry permits in early January, prospective applicants have been lining up to get the mandatory 16 hours of training.
Kevin and Krista Rankin of Quincy are among those stepping forward at the outset of this new opportunity.
The Rankins were part of a group of 20 people taking part in an eight-hour training session offered Saturday by Western Illinois Shooting Excellence (WISE), one of several local groups offering concealed carry classes in the Quincy area.
After completing a second eight-hour training session later this year, participants will be eligible to be among the first in Illinois to apply for concealed carry permits.
Kevin Rankin says he's looking forward to applying -- something that wasn't possible previously because Illinois was the last state in the nation to adopt a law allowing people to carry concealed weapons.
Rankin said he doesn't mind going through a training regimen that's been described as the toughest in the nation.
"The main thing about taking this class is to make sure that we are capable of handling the firearm and defending ourselves," he said. "We want to be responsible with the guns as much as we can by taking the course and making sure we are trained."
Krista Rankin said she decided to enroll in the training program not only because she wants to be able to protect herself by having a concealed weapon at her disposal, but she also wanted to express her Constitutional rights.
"It's been in our Constitution that we have the right to bear arms, but we've just had legislation that prevented it in this state," she said, adding that the new law passed by the Illinois General Assembly was "long overdue."
Kevin Rankin is an avid hunter who has considerable experience with many different types of firearms, including pistols. Taking the concealed carry class for him was more of a "refresher" course that covered many of the same things he has learned in hunter safety classes -- except the emphasis in this course is on pistols.
His wife, on the other hand, is more of a beginner, though she has fired guns in the past while "plinking with family members" at a private range in Missouri.
Just this past week she bought a 9mm pistol to use for concealed carry purposes and fired it for the first time Friday at a private range. Then on Saturday she got to use the pistol again when participants in the WISE course traveled to a different shooting range along Saint Ludgerus Road, east of Quincy, and fired 50 rounds each at targets 12 feet away.
A 9-inch paper plate was stapled to the center of the target, and more than half of Kristy's 50 shots struck the plate.
Kristy Rankin said she's eager to get a concealed carry permit because being able to carry a weapon while traveling will give her some peace of mind.
"I don't know that I'll carry a gun 100 percent of the time. It's just that for me to carry it at all, at any given time, I have to be licensed," she said.
Mike Schuttler of Quincy was one of the instructors at Saturday's WISE concealed carry training class, which is essentially a National Rifle Association basic pistol class.
Schuttler said the first eight hours of the course focuses on becoming familiar with a pistol and learning to be comfortable shooting a weapon.
"We teach them how to take it apart to clean it, and we teach them how to hold the gun when they're firing it," he said. "We teach them the proper stance when they're shooting so that they're balanced and got their arms and legs positioned right. We teach them safety from the beginning to the end."
Part of Saturday's class was taught in a classroom, while the rest of the session was conducted on the firing range.
Schuttler said the second eight-hour class focuses more on the rules associated with Illinois' concealed carry permit, such as where guns can be taken and where they can't. It also involves more shooting.
Schuttler said in order to pass the second round of training, participants must be able to hit at least 70 percent of larger targets placed five yards, seven yards and 10 yards away -- a state rule.
"It you can't do that, you shouldn't be carrying a gun," Schuttler said.
Schuttler said more than 120 people have already signed up for classes offered by WISE. Several classes have already been offered, and more will be scheduled in coming weeks. More information is available at www.wisefirearmtraining.com.
Schuttler said about 40 percent of the people signing up for classes are women, and the people taking part come from all walks of life.
In many cases, he said, participants want to be able to defend themselves if ever the need arises, but many others are simply "exercising their rights" to carry a concealed weapon in accordance with state law.
"Some of our students have never touched a gun and never fired a gun" before enrolling in the training class, Schuttler said.
He said the role of the people who provide concealed carry training -- there are 19 registered in Adams County through the Illinois State Police -- is to teach people to carry safely.
Betty Ann Einweck of Quincy had never fired a gun or even handled one until she took part in Saturday's eight-hour class along with her husband, Edward Neff, a longtime hunter and experienced shooter.
"I wanted to safely learn how to handle a gun," she said.
Einweck said she hasn't yet decided if she will buy a pistol and carry it from time to time, but she wants to be prepared in case she decides to start doing so.
"I really haven't made that determination yet," she said. "It's just important that if you're going to pick up a gun, that you know what you're doing safely."