Archive for Wednesday, August 9, 2006

New gun law a boon for Tonganoxie store owner

August 9, 2006

Kansans are lining up to buy guns and learn how to shoot them.

"Usually summers in the gun business are deader than a door nail, but we're having a record year," said Jeff Howlett, owner of Tonganoxie's Kansas Fire Arms Specialties.

Much of the increased interest in guns is because people are arming themselves to take advantage of the new Kansas conceal-carry gun law, Howlett said.

"We're selling a lot of pistols," he said.

While buying their guns, Kansans also are requesting and completing applications for obtaining a license to carry a concealed weapon. Applications became available July 1 at local sheriff's offices and online from the Kansas Attorney General's office.

As of Friday, the attorney general's office had received 446 applications, said Chuck Sexson, former assistant director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation who now is the state's director of concealed services. Though applications are being accepted, licenses won't be issued until Jan. 1 or after.

Passing the tests

Moreover, the state has trained and certified 250 people who can conduct the eight-hour firearms safety course the law requires everyone complete in order to get a license.

"We're adding to that every week," Sexson said of the number of certified trainers. "We'd like to have up around 300 instructors as kind of a core group. We'll certainly take as many as we can certify because that simply gets more programs out there for the applicants to attend."

Last week, two investigators were added to Sexson's office to conduct background checks on the license applicants. An applicant must be at least 21 and cannot have a criminal history or a history of mental illness.

"Most of our applicants -- 90 percent -- we're not finding any significant issues with their backgrounds," Sexson said.

A list of certified instructors by county and how to contact them are on the attorney general's Web site. There are nine instructors so far in Leavenworth and Jefferson counties.

Classes with Joe Nave, a certified instructor from McLouth, are being held through Howlett's business. One night last week 16 people went through the course, Howlett said. More than 20 were expected for a weekend class, he said.

Seeking protection

Most of them aren't planning to carry concealed weapons all the time, he said.

"They say they are just going to go ahead and (take the course); that it's probably good practice and if they ever do want to carry they can."

Howlett said he plans to obtain a license as does his wife.

"Folks are doing it for their own safety. A lot of women are going through this," he said.

Licensees will not be able to carry guns everywhere. The law notes certain places, such as churches and bars, where guns are not allowed. Other businesses will be able to post signs forbidding weapons in their establishments if owners choose to do so.

But no signs are going up until the state determines a specific design and format for standard use, Sexson said. A public hearing on a possible sign design will be held in October.

Once issued, the licenses are good for four years. Based on the experiences of other states, Kansas could issue up to 25,000 licenses over the next couple of years, Sexson said.

Sexson said he also thinks his office will be prepared to send notification of acceptance to applicants by the end of December. They will then finish the licensing process by going to a driver's license renewal office to have a conceal-carry identification card made. Or they can have a notice placed on their driver's license, similar to the licenses of organ donors.

"I think everything is going pretty smoothly," Sexson said of the licensing process.

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