Washington C.H.—Southern Ohioans ranging in age from 21-years-old to 70-years-old are applying for concealed carry weapon permits. By law residents must be at least 21-years-old to apply for a CCW permit, but those as young as 16 have taken basic firearms safety training. This year the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office will issue its 2,000th concealed carry permit since the CCW law went into effect in Ohio.
In 2004 the Ohio legislature enacted laws to give Ohio citizens the right to carry concealed weapons.
“Prior to this concealed carry law going into effect, you were not allowed to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Ohio,” said Bob Russell, deputy at the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.
Carrying a concealed weapon before the 2004 law went into effect was a felony offense, according to Russell.
“There were certain provisions for how you had to carry it in a vehicle. Carrying a concealed weapon in violation of the law was a felony offense. You could always carry in plain view, there’s nothing illegal about having it in plain view. If you want to cover it then you have to have a concealed carry permit,” said Russell.
To have a concealed carry permit in Ohio, statutory laws provide the procedures for the application and licensing requirements for civilians. The first step in applying for a concealed carry permit is to get certification through a training course in firearms, said Russell.
“You have to have the training first,” said Russell. There are different training opportunities available to citizens, according to Russell: “You can either be trained by someone who is certified through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy or an organization such as the National Rifle Association. There are a couple of other nationally known handgun or gun associations that could do the training.”
Training provided by qualified instructors ranges from the basic pistol course to more advanced training, such as learning to shoot on the move. Training time varies, depending on the course, but the state law sets a minimum training requirement of six hours in the classroom and two hours at the range.
“In Ohio the last legislation changes—in March of 2015—lowered the requirements as far as training. Originally it was 10 hours classroom, two hours range time and it was lowered to six hours classroom and two hours range time, for an eight hour course,” Russell said.
Myron Benner, of Washington C.H., is a National Rifle Association (NRA) qualified firearms instructor and has been teaching basic firearms courses since 2004.
“The basic firearms course teaches familiarization, safety, maintenance, ammunition and storage,” said Benner. “I have done approximately 130 certifications in four years. My classes are between six and eight people. I try to keep the classes small.”
A typical training course taught by Benner would last all day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and include classroom training, the written test, and range time.
“We handle dummy firearms and real firearms in the class. We use no real ammunition. The class covers all different aspects of safety when it comes to firearms,” said Benner.
But all of that is changing this year with the NRA’s new online system for training and certification: “As of May 15 those who wish to earn a certificate under the NRA have to sign-up online and take the classroom portion of the certification course online. The course is self-paced,” Benner said.
The NRA online training course uses the Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting and an open-book testing format to cover the basics of firearms. The two hours of range time is still a requirement for completing the NRA certification, according to Benner.
“Once they have completed the online classroom training they will have a code. Then they can find any NRA trainer, give them the code, and the trainer checks their online test results. If they passed the online portion, the trainer then takes them to the range to certify them on the range. We go through a basic checklist once at the range,” said Benner.
As the classroom portion of the NRA training for certification moves to the online platform, Benner said he is looking into how he needs to change his training program. “I am looking into what is going to be required of me to continue to be able to teach the way I have been,” he said.
Richard Coy, from Washington C.H., is a City of Dayton cop and qualified firearms instructor with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) in London, Ohio.
“I teach firearms to law enforcement. To the citizens of the community I teach concealed carry. I teach in Fayette County but I also travel,” Coy said. Coy said he has certified close to 2,000 people since 2004.
“I like to educate and help people,” said Coy. Coy teaches about one class per month. “I offer the course on either a Saturday or Sunday, but with my work schedule, I have offered courses on a Monday or Tuesday,” said Coy. “I have had a lot of good students throughout my courses. They have challenged me with a lot of good questions and scenarios.”
Benner said his students surprise him with questions and scenarios as well. “I have had a broad range of ages in the certification course. NRA is not a concealed carry class specifically, it is a basic pistol class, and I had a 16-year-old take the class with his mom. There is no age limit to get a certificate, but with the certificate, a person has to be 21-years-old to get the concealed carry permit,” he said.
Larry Camp has managed Bottom Dollar Gun & Archery Shop in Washington C.H. since it opened in 1991. Camp was certified by Benner in December 2015.
“What really surprised me about the certification course was the legalities of conceal carry that I didn’t know. Things I didn’t know you can and can’t do, and I’m in the industry.” Camp said, referring to the gun shop he works at on Prairie Road in Fayette County.
The Bottom Dollar Gun & Archery Shop is also seeing a broad range of ages in the store. “From 21-year-olds to 70-year-olds, we’re seeing a lot more elderly take the course,” Camp said. “Crime itself is motivating everybody. All you have to do is watch the news.”
Camp suggests to those who come into the gun shop as first-time firearm buyers to take a basic firearms course before purchasing a firearm. “First thing I do when a person comes into the gun store is ask them about their experience with firearms. 90% nowadays say they have very little or none at all. I tell them to go take the certification course. It familiarizes them with firearm safety, to learn how to handle safely, how to store it, how to operate,” Camp said.
Once a person has a certificate, they may take that certificate to the sheriff’s office to apply for a concealed carry permit. Russell processes concealed carry applications at the sheriff’s annex building in Washington Court House.
“In Ohio you have to apply for a license in the county you reside or a surrounding county,” said Russell. This means Russell processes concealed carry applicants not only from Fayette County residents but also for applicants coming from Highland, Madison, Greene, Pickaway and Clinton counties.
“We get several people that come here because the waiting lists are a little longer [in other counties]. We don’t do appointments—we do walk-in. A lot of times they will come here because they can get in quickly,” Russell said, and because Fayette County residents may go to a sheriff’s office in one of the surrounding counties to apply for a permit, “We have no idea how many people from Fayette County may have gone to a surrounding county to get a license,” said Russell.
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office issued 175 concealed carry permits in 2015.
“It has been quite busy the last five months,” said Russell. “For whatever reason we have had a lot of them this year, a lot of applications. I have no idea what the reason is, whether it’s politics or whether just our country today or the dangers thereof and who knows after this situation in Pike County whether that will drive people who live out in the county by themselves.”
As the number of concealed carry permits in the county rises to 2,000, Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said he believes the process works well.
“We do a thorough job of complying with the law on issuing CCW,” Stanforth said. “I think 2,000 is a significant number. We’re ready for the next 2,000.”
Reach Ashley Bunton at (740) 335-3611 or on Twitter @ashbunton