Packing legally grows popular

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Howard Miller is a certified concealed carry permit instructor. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Howard Miller is a certified concealed carry permit instructor.

While it is legal at almost any time to carry a firearm in Colorado if it is in plain sight, carrying a concealed weapon is illegal unless the person has a permit.

To receive a concealed weapon permit, people must first take a course that deals with gun safety, the gun parts and how they work, and the ramifications when using a gun for protection.

Howard Miller, a licensed certified CCW instructor, said more and more people want to carry concealed firearms for protection and peace of mind.

In 2011, 132 permits were granted in Montezuma County.

Miller said carrying a concealed weapon without a permit could be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. He said brandishing it or threatening someone with it are situations where the charge is likely to be a felony.

According to documents from the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, knowingly aiming a firearm at a person, recklessly or with criminal negligence discharging a firearm or being in possession of a loaded firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a Class 2 misdemeanor crime.

Having a handgun in a car or vehicle for protection or hunting is not considered concealed in the state.

Bernie Bender, 72, said Miller taught him a number of things that he did not know.

Bender said the information he received was extremely valuable and knew he needed a CCW permit for peace of mind.

“I travel across the county quite frequently, and I carry a handgun with me for personal protection,” he said. “I hope I never have to use it, but this is just in case.”

Bender had a CCW permit in Pennsylvania that expired, and when he moved to Colorado he decided to apply for a permit, but needed the required class.

He said Miller’s class taught him that if he were in a situation where he had to use a firearm to protect himself, he likely would not be shooting at a stationary target. The class helped him to learn to shoot while on the move.

“The other guy is not going to stand there waiting for you,” he said.

Announce warning

Before firing a gun at a possible assailant, Miller said a warning should be given, telling the person that a gun is present and shots will be fired if necessary.

Miller said a person should never say they are going to kill someone because this could be argued as an intent, and only announce the warning that they have a gun and will shoot.

He instructs his students that if they are ever in a situation where deadly force is needed, to aim for the center of mass not larger than a sheet of notebook paper.

He also tells students to shoot as many times as needed to stop the threat.

“Shooting them in the kneecaps may or may not stop the threat,” he said, and added a first bullet may not stop a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Miller said too many people think they do not need a safety course when it comes to firearms, but added most people need some basic training.

The instructor said he starts his classes with the basic things to know, including the difference between a pistol and revolver and how to use them.

Miller even goes as far to explain how the gun fires from the time the trigger is pulled.

“It’s highly effective to know what happens when you pull the trigger,” he said. Maintenance, cleaning and proper ammunition for guns are also discussed.

What Miller teaches is similar to what guidelines the National Rifle Association uses, though there is no test for a CCW certificate.

Miller also teaches his students how to draw the gun from where it is concealed. The last portion of the CCW course is 12 hours of training on a firing range.

On the firing range, Miller requires his students to be able to hit the target and satisfy him that they are ready.

“This training will help determine your mindset on what you can or cannot do,” he said.

As an example, he pointed to the deadly Aurora movie theater shooting in which exchanging shots with the suspect in a darkened and panicked location could have done more harm than good.

“In a three-on-one situation, that is different,” he said. “We teach you how to identify those instances. If your best option is to run there is nothing wrong with that.”

Law enforcement, he said, usually likes the shooter to give a warning before using deadly force and cautions his students from talking to police without having a lawyer present if faced in a situation where deadly force was needed.

Before becoming a CCW instructor, Miller worked at a sporting goods store where he sold numerous weapons to customers, and the question he always asked was why they wanted a handgun.

The most common answer he heard was for personal protection, and Miller tried to steer them toward the proper gun for this. He said a single action revolver is not the recommended handgun for self defense.

Be prepared

A person who takes a CCW course or owns a handgun will probably never be forced to use it for protection, Miller said. But the 55 percent of men and the 45 percent of women he teaches want to be ready.

“It’s like buying insurance,” he said. “When you don’t have it is when you need it,” he said.

However, he pointed out that almost everyone in the state is allowed to carry a gun openly without a permit.

He also stressed that the people who do receive a permit from Colorado may not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in another state, and added New Mexico is just one state that will not accept Colorado’s concealed weapon permit.

Only Arizona and Wyoming allow people to carry concealed weapons without permits. Wyoming approved this law in 2011, following Arizona that approved the measure in 2009.

“The whole thing is, it’s there if you need it, but pray you will never need it,” he said.

Miller charges $35 for the basic pistol course, $80 for the CCW permit course or $100 for both courses,

The requirements

Only the sheriff’s office can renew or approve a new CCW application in the county and will only do so if all the requirements are met, including the training and certificate from a licensed instructor.

According to documents from the sheriff’s office, applications will only be processed Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

For a new CCW permit, applicants need a notarized application, a $50 charge to the sheriff’s office, $10 charge for fingerprinting, payment of $52.50 to Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the original training certificate, valid picture identification and proof of residency.

The rules for a renewal CCW permit in Colorado and the county are similar but less expensive. There is still a $50 cost to the sheriff’s office, but the cost to the CBI is $13, and a late charge of $15 will only apply if the card, which is good for five years, has expired.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com