Concealed-carry instructors say training is equal parts laws, guns

Firearms instructor Jim Bland, left, listens as instructor Mike Schuttler describes aspects of firearms law during a concealed-carry class this month at the Eagles Club in Quincy. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Jan. 18, 2014 4:46 pm Updated: Feb. 2, 2014 12:15 am
Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Looking into the faces of people taking concealed-carry classes, instructors answer questions, crack an occasional joke, and deal with the serious subject of when deadly force is justified.

"We tell them about protection of life, defense of life and explain what happens afterwards," said James Bland, an instructor with Western Illinois Shooting Excellence Firearm Training.

Bland is a retired Chicago police officer who was directly involved in three shootings while on the force. He also was shot at in other cases where he did not return fire.

"It does change your life," Bland said of the shooting incidents.

Fellow WISE instructor Mike Schuttler nods his head. Schuttler was a military police officer who was involved in two shootings in a foreign country. Although both were ruled "good" shootings, Schuttler said people who carry a concealed weapon need to know what happens when that weapon is used.

WISE Firearm Training is one of several instruction groups that has offered concealed-carry certification classes in the wake of the new Illinois concealed-carry law.

Jon Capp of Hannibal has operated Northeast Missouri Firearm Training for several years and now operates Western Illinois Firearm Training, as well.

"I'm the only one from Missouri (in this area) who has been approved as an Illinois instructor," he said.

Capp said his courses offer something special because he can tell class members about Missouri law as well as the Illinois law that's required in classes.

"I think that's real important because so many people are going to St. Louis for shopping" or ballgames, Capp said.

Matt Courtney with Great River Firearms Training is a former Marine Corps range instructor who works in tandem with Phillip Alexander and Bob McClintock leading local classes.

"We're busy," Courtney said. "We've been holding a class roughly every three weeks. The weather is the only thing that keeps us from holding a class every week."

Class members are a varied lot.

Courtney said an all-woman class was held recently. About 20 class members "had a ball" and shot very well at a shooting range. Some of the graduates already are talking about coming back for more range time.

"That's important. You've got to go to the range and stay proficient with the firearm -- and the law," Courtney said.

Larry Moller, who retired from the Quincy Inspection Department several years ago, took the course and "enjoyed it immensely." He could have skipped part of the hands-on training because of his familiarity with firearms from his time in the National Guard, serving in Vietnam, but Moller wants to become better acquainted with handguns.

"I think everybody ought to take it. It's an eye-opener, whether you're going to carry or not," he said.

One thing that interested Moller was hearing from Bland and his perspective as a former police officer. Class members were asked about their feelings of apprehension when their vehicle is stopped by an officer on patrol.

"He told that you don't know what that officer's been told. Maybe you (and your car fit) the description of someone who robbed a bank," Moller said.

Quincy businesswoman Theresa Spear was apprehensive when she took the class because her husband, Jeff, was busy that weekend and she was there on her own.

"I hadn't shot firearms before and ... was at a table with people who were very seasoned firearms handlers," Spear said.

Those concerns eased a great deal when she began shooting at the range and learned that little instructions about holding her breath and squeezing the trigger helped her hit the target. She said the instructors helped her enjoy the experience.

"It didn't leave me feeling proficient because it was only the beginning," she said. "What it did was give me the confidence in need. I want to go shoot and become more acquainted with firearms."

According to the Illinois State Police, about 23,000 people applied for concealed-carry permits between Jan. 5 and Jan. 13. Cook County accounted for more than 5,300 applications. Numerically, that was by far the most application requests in any of Illinois' 102 counties, but on a per-capita basis, Cook County ranks last.

An analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times shows that Cumberland County in east-central Illinois had the state's highest per-capita application rate. Fifty-six people there have applied for permits out of about 11,000 residents.

Adams County had 189 applicants during the first eight days of concealed-carry sign-ups. Brown, Hancock and Pike counties reported 17, 25 and 26 applications, respectively.

Jason Klinner, an instructor with WISE Firearm Training, said the 16 hours of training required for Illinois concealed-carry applicants include instruction in the state's laws. Class members learn about storage and transport rules, federal laws, interaction with officers, and the justified use of force.

From a legal standpoint, the justified use of force is important. People carrying a concealed weapon can be charged with unlawful use of a weapon, or even assault, if they pull the weapon from its holster when it is not necessary. Weapons are to be drawn only when someone is fending off an attack or trying to give an attacker one last chance to stop.

"You become the offender if you pull your gun without cause," Bland said.

Klinner and his fellow instructors often mention the George Zimmerman shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 to promote discussion in classes and drive home the point that people carrying firearms face close scrutiny of everything they do. They talk about criminal cases that might be filed against shooters and the civil lawsuits that can be brought even if a shooter is found not guilty in a criminal case.

Range training calls for each class member to fire at least 10 shots at three distances -- five, seven and 10 yards. But many of the training programs go well beyond the minimum 30 shots.

There's a lot of talk about safety. Instructors know some of their students haven't been around guns and need to understand that every gun must be treated as though it is loaded and ready to fire.

Quincy veterinarian Bob Reich recently completed his Illinois concealed-carry training. Reich started shooting handguns when he was in his early 20s, and he has concealed-carry permits under Florida and Utah training programs. Even after he gets his Illinois permit, Reich doesn't know how often he'll carry a firearm.

"If I'm coming down here (to the veterinary office) at 2 a.m. and have the doors open for an emergency ... that can be scary," he said, so a handgun in those situations would help him feel safer.

After a short pause, Reich said there's a lot of responsibility for people carrying weapons. He hopes he never has to find out whether he could take someone else's life with a gun.



A county-by-county list of concealed-carry permit applications made to Illinois State Police from Jan. 5, the day applications began being accepted, through Jan. 13:

Adams    143

Alexander    14

Bond    72

Boone    96

Brown    17

Bureau    88

Calhoun    17

Carroll    39

Cass    32

Champaign    305

Christian    129

Clark    61

Clay    48

Clinton    58

Coles    144

Cook    5,305

Crawford    61

Cumberland    56

DeKalb    189

DeWitt    55

Douglas    73

DuPage    1,589

Edgar    39

Edwards    26

Effingham    94

Fayette    77

Ford    43

Franklin    122

Fulton    101

Gallatin    10

Greene    21

Grundy    179

Hamilton    23

Hancock    25

Hardin    8

Henderson    17

Henry    91

Iroquois    66

Jackson    122

Jasper    36

Jefferson    117

Jersey    52

Jo Daviess    35

Johnson    50

Kane    761

Kankakee    243

Kendall    264

Knox    104

LaSalle    254

Lake    1,164

Lawrence    54

Lee    79

Livingston    77

Logan    84

Macon    432

Macoupin    147

Madison    748

Marion    110

Marshall    36

Mason    31

Massac    41

McDonough    86

McHenry    822

McLean    325

Menard    51

Mercer    45

Monroe    82

Montgomery    97

Morgan    79

Moultrie    48

Ogle    145

Peoria    502

Perry    69

Piatt    74

Pike    26

Pope    16

Pulaski    26

Putnam    21

Randolph    81

Richland    68

Rock Island    207

Saline    56

Sangamon    569

Schuyler    17

Scott    9

Shelby    73

St. Clair    553

Stark    17

Stephenson    87

Tazewell    534

Union    75

Vermilion    173

Wabash    52

Warren    34

Washington    31

Wayne    53

White    70

Whiteside    80

Will    1,759

Williamson    247

Winnebago    597

Woodford    154

Illinois State Police