Sunday, May 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Dallas resident Tracey Maddux (left) looks over a handgun with American Outdoors owner Mickey Garus during a concealed handgun license (CHL) class on Jan. 30.
February 05, 2013
POLK COUNTY -- Unloaded guns sat on display during Mickey Garus' concealed handgun license (CHL) class at American Outdoors in Dallas one day last week while cookies and refreshments lined the opposite counter.
The gathering was packed, as it has been so far this year. Of the 130 students in his class, many were women.
Calls from President Obama for stricter gun laws have boosted gun purchases and the demand for handgun classes in recent years.
Retail sales and education activity has been even sharper following a string of mass shootings in the United States in the last two years, particularly the tragedy in Newton, Conn,. in December.
Women comprise a major segment of this population. According to a National Sports Shooting Foundation 2012 report, 61 percent of surveyed firearm retailers reported an increase in female customers. Polk County firearms sellers have echoed those trends.
"In the past couple of years I've seen a huge increase in women coming to classes," Garus said.
"Typically, we'd see less than 10 percent of women in our classes, and those numbers have gone up to about 40 percent."
Bryan Jibe opened Fifty1fifty-3 Tactical in Monmouth in 2012. Jobe said he had not anticipated the demand he's seen from women for handguns.
"A good third of my handgun purchases have been women," Jobe said. "Protection and self-defense are their reasons for buying."
Diana Lackey, who lives near Silverton, is one of Garus' students. She said she was held at gunpoint as a young woman.
"Now, I find myself living out in the country raising children by myself," she said. "We have a lot of random people stopping by, and that makes me nervous ... if something were to happen, the police response is quite a long ways away."
Lackey said she wanted a gun for protection and to learn how to use it "in case I need it."
"I am getting the weapon for home protection and I'll have to decide on how to manage taking it with me elsewhere and feeling safer having a gun at the same time," she said. "But you know, at home I could have it in a certain spot and it would stay there locked away."
The Polk County Sheriff's Office administers the CHL program locally. Sheriff Bob Wolfe said he believed there has been some "overreaction" regarding proposed restrictions -- hence, the demand for handguns and CHLs.
Some congressional proposals include reinstating a ban on guns considered "assault weapons," requiring background checks for private gun sales, and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
Local retailers have seen an upswing in numbers of women buying handguns.
"I haven't heard the government state anything about taking away CHLs, but people are still rushing to purchase them," Wolfe said. "Of the hundreds of bills that go to legislature, only a fraction are passed."
Garus said he had 350 students scheduled for his January classes. One was McKenzie Lovell of Dallas, who shared the same reason for seeking a CHL as many of her female classmates: safety.
"I just want to be safer with everything that's been going on, especially with being a girl," said Lovell. "It just makes me nervous to go anywhere by myself.
"It was also really important for my husband because he works a lot, so when I'm by myself I'll have a form of protection other than my dog."
Some minimum requirements for attaining a CHL include being 21 years of age, a record clean of felonies, no history of being a sexual offender, and not being dishonorably discharged from the military.
Experience with shooting a gun is not a requirement in attaining a CHL.
"(But) you should have at least fired the weapon to understand the mechanics of how the weapon works after it's been fired," Wolfe opined. "If someone gets a CHL and they've never fired the gun, they may get in a situation where they have to shoot that gun."
Garus believes shooting a gun is essential in safely handling them.
"We preach practice, practice, practice," Garus said. "If you think you can just wear a gun and not practice with it, you're going to freeze up in the moment and it becomes a paper weight."
By The Numbers
* 166,757 -- All concealed handgun license (CHL) holders as of Feb. 2 in Oregon. Of those, 38,597 are women.
* 3,311 -- Men and women in Polk County who hold a CHL.
* All CHL holders as of Feb. 2, 2012 in Oregon -- 146,689; women -- 32,799; Polk County, men and women -- 2,796.
* Number of CHL holders in Polk County in December 2011 -- 82; in December 2012 -- 160.
Source -- Oregon State Police, Polk County Sheriff's Office
(The sheriff's office was not able to break up county figures by gender.)