Gun permits up among area women

Spike parallels Obama inauguration, spurs demand for designer handbags

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Tobie Baker/Cortez Journal The Tatiana line of Femme Fatale Handbags enables top and side access

More Montezuma County women applied for and received concealed-carry permits this year than in any other time in recent memory.

After a request from the Cortez Journal, the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office reported issuing 112 concealed-carry permits to women this year. In 2008, only 10 ladies sought legal permission to hide weapons on their person.

"We revealed some interesting information on women who apply for and carry concealed firearms in Montezuma County," said Sheriff Dennis Spruell.

After President Barack Obama's inauguration, the number of local women with permits spiked to 97 in 2009. A downward trend followed in 2010 to a low of 30 in 2011. But since, the sheriff reports permit applications have climbed annually to their highest levels in 2013. The average age for local ladies packing heat is 40, Spruell said.

That's great news for JaCee Apple, CEO and co-founder of Femme Fatale Handbags. A Cortez native, Apple launched her own line of concealed-carry handbags this year. Her products are now available in nearly two-dozen retail stores across the country.

"My overall goal is to empower other women to make their safety a priority," Apple explained. "If I can help one woman walk with more confidence, my job is done."

A mother of two, Apple said she found it difficult to conceal a firearm on her person, adding slacks and skirts were too form fitting to allow a gun to be hidden. Upon shopping for a handbag with a concealment pocket, the bags were either too plain for a fashion forward lady like herself, or far too expensive, she said.

"I refused to buy an ugly purse," she proclaimed, "so I set out to try to make my own."

Available locally at Shooter's World and Love on a Hanger, Femme Fatale Handbags retail from $125 to $135. Love on a Hanger owner Tiffany Waters said she sales the Tatiana, which features top and side access to the concealed department, and Anya Hobo lines.

"Once you practice, it's quiet easy to draw your weapon," Waters said.

The Femme Fatale Handbags feature a dedicated lockable zippered firearm compartment. The added safety feature helps protect children in search of candy from their mother's purse as well as ensures weapons are always pointed in a safe direction, Apple said. Holsters are adjustable and fix to the inside of the compartment with Velcro.

"My designs are meant to marry both fashion and function," Apple said.

Made of genuine leather, Femme Fatale Handbags come with two leather holsters that match the exterior of the bag and an interior pocket with a magnetic snap for additional magazines. A titanium metal cable designed into the handle helps prevent theft, Apple said.

Femme Fatale Handbag customer Kris Poff of Texas said she loves her designer concealed carry purse. It provides handy, easy access without anyone knowing that she's packing heat. Poff is qualified to carry both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers.

"I feel so much safer knowing I can protect myself and others," Poff explained. "I show my handbag off every chance I get down here in Texas."

Poff said she her husband, a native of Summit Ridge, both obtained their concealed-carry permits as Valentine gifts to one another a couple of years ago. She said safety is her main concern as she spends time alone at home some 20 miles from the nearest town.

"I feel every woman should be able to protect herself and her kids," said Poff. "There are so many single women who need to be self-sufficient."

Other designer concealed-carry handbags are also available at retail shops along Main Street in Cortez. At A Bit of Heaven, a downtown clothing store, the specialty Western Concealed Purses - complete with metal pistol decorations - retail for $69.

"Women can carry a gun with fashion," said owner Denise Nunez. "A lot of customers are interested, and it's important to cater to their needs."

Throughout the holiday shopping season, Nunez is offering a 10 percent discount on all her concealed-carry handbags. Purchased with a pair of shoes, customers also receive a 15 percent discount, she added.

Big R on Main Street also carries a selection of concealed carry purses. Designed by Way West, Real Tree and Catchfly brands, the purses range from $64 to $78. A sales clerk, however, said she preferred a bra-mounted holster.

"It's easier to get to," she said, lifting her hand to the side of her chest.

Retired Idaho sheriff Steve Blackenship teaches a local self-defense course designed for women, claiming he can train a lady to properly wrestle a gun away from any would-be attacker. Every woman should own and know how to use a firearm, given most attackers are likely physically stronger, he added.

"A gun is the great equalizer," said Blackenship.

Blackenship, however, is not sold on the idea of marketing purses as practical concealed-carry holsters. He strongly advised against such products.

"Most times, the first thing an attacker will reach for is a woman's purse," he cautioned.

Sheriff Spruell, a strong advocate of the right to bear arms, recently signed a letter of support to the National Rifle Association to seek a firearms training grant for women. Hosted by the Four Corners Rifle and Pistol Club, the clinic would provide Montezuma County women with needed firearms training.

"It's a NRA Women on Target shooting clinic they would like to put on in May of 2014," Spruell said. "The clinic would allow women hands-on experience with different types of firearms, and in the end make them more confident and self-reliant."

In Colorado, women 18-34 years old, more often than any other group of women, are the victims of gun violence. According to gun educators, women of this age demographic are also the people most commonly enrolling in gun education classes.

The women taking gun education classes fall into three categories - young, college-aged women living on their own, middle-aged women with families and elderly women who may feel defenseless or find themselves living alone again after their husbands have died.

All three age groups express a similar reason for enrolling in gun education classes - self-protection.

In 2012, the FBI - through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System - conducted 414,838 background checks on Colorado residents who attempted to purchase guns, which was a 23 percent increase from the previous year. For the first 10 months of this year, the FBI has conducted 433,482 background checks - that's one background check for every 12 Coloradans.