Under The Gun: Part One

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The Kentucky General Assembly passed a concealed carry law in 1996. It allowed any Kentuckian who passed a state-run class the right to carry a handgun or any other deadly weapon on the body as long as it was hidden from plain view.

Nationally, there are nearly 192 million privately-owned firearms in the United States. Sixty-five-million of those are handguns.

Gunowners.org claims nearly 500,000 times a year a concealed handgun is used in self-defense away from the user's home.

"You have to be in danger of harm to yourself or others in order for you to use deadly force or meet force with force," said Deborah Williams, a concealed carry Instructor and permit holder.

Every year, it seems that more and more Kentuckians are getting registered to discreetly protect themselves.

"Many people were already carrying concealed illegally. There was no mechanism for them to go and get a permit," Williams said.

So when the concealed carry law passed in the Commonwealth over a decade ago, many gun carriers took the opportunity to get their conceal carry permit.

Since October 1996 when concealed carry classes were first offered, 5,000 Warren County citizens have gone through the process to become permit holders.

The Kentucky State Police and Conceal Carry Group in Richmond, Kentucky, estimate that over 125,000 Kentuckians have went through the process and training to become concealed weapons carriers.

Currently, 90,000 people have concealed carry permits in the state. Williams, a concealed carry instructor and permit holder said concealed weapons carriers could be anyone and are just like you and me.

"Our students are law-abiding private citizens that want to protect themselves," Williams said.

Those who apply for permits come from all walks of life ... from professionals to the working class. Currently, women make up 40 percent of those attending classes to receive their certification.

Williams said she sees a lot of women in her class that either live alone, travel a lot or have already been victims of violence.

Men who have jobs where they transport money or are constantly on the road, also frequently attend concealed carry classes.

" ... A lot of people in their 20s or 30s, male and female. We also have a large group of the elderly that have permits," said Trooper Steve Harmon of the Warren County Sheriff's Department.

Trooper Harmon said that since the concealed carry law passed in 1996, numbers for permits in Warren County have steadily increased.

"The concealed carry transactions for 2005 were 799 and that covers new people registering, renewals, changes of information, lost or stolen permits," Harmon said.

However in 2006, those numbers dipped slightly, with only 744 people recieving their concealed carry permit.

Still, there has to be a reason for so many people feeling the need to use a weapon to protect themselves.

Gun store and indoor shooting range, The Firing Line's general manager, Mike Clay said news of other crimes in the area can spark a person's desire to arm themselves.

"If there's a crime story in the news, a home invasion, a car-jacking, we do get a call or two. We do see an increase of people being more concerned. They're willing to step up in an effort to protect themselves more," Clay said.

He also said it can be a deterent to would-be criminals.

"The prisoner's in prison said that one of the deterents for preventing crime was they didn't know who had gun and who didn't have one," Clay said.

New Federal Bureau of Investigation reports show that although there are 71 million more handgun users, there's a 38 percent decrease in violent crimes.

Williams attributes those numbers to concealed weapons carriers being properly trained on how to properly use their weapons.

To view more facts from www.gunowners.org, click here and for more information on concealed carry laws, visit www.usconcealedcarry.com.