As reported on 2.6.06 by KY3 of Springfield, MO:
Thousands take advantage of concealed gun law
by Maria Neider, KY3 News
SPRINGFIELD -- Billie Jo Whaley was 13 years old when a gun changed her life.
"We had just gotten home from school and we were sitting around the kitchen table, doing our homework,” said Whaley. "My mom turned to look out the window and get up and answer the door. At that time, he leaned over the balcony and shot my mom twice.”
Whaley heard the two gunshots.
“I was screaming, ‘My mom, my mom!’” she said.
She remembers staring at her mother, who was bleeding on the kitchen floor. Whaley blamed guns.
"I hated every bit of them and I always felt that, if guns weren't in this world, he wouldn't have been able to shoot my mom," she said.
Many Missourians feel the same way – and fought for years to stop a concealed carry weapon (CCW) law. The fight included one statewide vote against legally concealed weapons, vetoes and veto threats by Gov. Mel Carnahan and Gov. Bob Holden, and a legislative override of one of Holden’s vetoes.
The biggest concern was whether it would cause an increase in gun crimes. Critics feared more criminals would get handguns. Greene County Sheriff Jack Merritt recalls when his own trained deputies worried their jobs would become more deadly.
"Oh, all these people are going to have guns. It's going to be more dangerous when we make car stops," Merritt recalled them saying.
When it came down to it, however, the realistic and final argument was: people who will go through the trouble of taking safety courses and weapons qualification courses are not the criminal element.
One recent safety and certification class included a minister, an attorney and people like schoolteacher Lalea Lazar, who wanted a way to defend herself and her 5-year-old son.
"You need to be prepared,” said Lazar. “It's not a matter of if an incident will happen; it's really a matter of when.”
A rancher from Christian County worried about cattle rustling also was in the class.
"You really need to have the weapon with you if you're going to interrupt a crime in progress, which you very well could,” said Dan Hartley.
Instructors say many people who take the classes to get permits have survived violent crimes against themselves or loved ones. Eighteen years after her mother’s shooting, Whaley shot a gun for the first time.
"I was a little nervous,” she said. “It was a little scary but it was all right."
The sound of gunshots still make her jump, and she was a bit shaky, but Whaley has her sights set on putting the past behind her and no longer living like a victim.
In order to qualify, each applicant must hit 15 out of 20 rounds in the black of a silhouette, seven yards away. In the past 18 months, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department issued more than 2,000 CCW permits.
Merritt says the law hasn’t had the effects that opponents feared.
"I have not seen any road rage, where people jump out of a wrecked car and start waving around a weapon. That's what people were afraid of," he said.
Records show 43 gun crimes were committed in 2003 in Missouri. In 2004, that number dropped to 32 -- 13 incidents before the law became active in July 2004 and 19 more through December. There were 34 firearms crimes in 2005.
"I think it's very much a success," said Merritt.
It was an empowering experience for Whaley. After some extra time on the firing range, she hopes to get her CCW permit in case, some day, she would have to shoot to save her life.
""I'm so ready to do this that I don't really think I'm nervous anymore or scared. I'm just ready to do it. I'm ready to change my life," she said.
To date, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department has issued 1,122 CCW permits. It revoked three after issuing them. It has denied no applications but Merritt says that’s because of the extensive screening process. Now the department is working on a renewal procedure for CCW permits, which are good for three years.
Of course, the department denies many permits to purchase guns, concealed or not concealed. That procedure has been in effect for many years.
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The article can be found at http://www.ky3.com/news/2266381.html?autovid=Y