Printed on: January 26, 2013

To Carry or not to carry

Instructors stress training for first-time gun buyers

By J.E. Mahtewson
jmathewson@postregister.com

Americans are searching for answers about the role of guns in our society.

Some advocate tighter gun restrictions to stop the mass killings that have devastated so many in recent months.

Trolley Square.

Aurora.

Newtown.

Others are stocking up on guns and ammunition, fearful that even the possibility of tighter gun controls will restrict their Second Amendment rights.

But some firearms instructors and law enforcement officers have another take -- they wonder if people buying guns for the first time actually know how to use them.

"I've got people calling and asking all these questions. They don't have any knowledge (of guns) and they're hurrying and trying to get them," gun instructor Pete Italiano said. "I see the rush, I see the problem. I'm concerned, too, that they're going to be banned. But I am concerned with people getting the guns and not knowing how to use them."

According to Bonneville County Sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Edwards, there are 6,641 concealed-carry permits issued in the county. Thirty-seven permits were revoked due to felony charges or civil-protection orders. Edwards said in 2009 and 2010, there were approximately 4,800 permits in the county. In the past two months, new permits issued went from an average of 40 per month to more than 80.

Italiano, who owns Universal Security and Training, teaches the Idaho concealed-carry class, among other training courses.

It's important that gun owners receive the proper training, he said, and taking a concealed-carry class doesn't provide everything a gun owner needs to know.

"It's classroom-only. Just talking about the safety, the security and the law; that's great, but it's not a firearms course," he said.

NRA advanced firearms instructor Don West said people don't understand there's a difference between owning a gun and being able to use it properly, especially when under duress.

"People think when they're old enough to buy a gun, they think they know what they're doing," West said. "I used to fall into that category. I don't think its arrogance; I think it's just being misinformed."

During a home invasion, for example, West said it's not unusual for the homeowner to be killed with his or her own weapon.

"They haven't made the decision whether or not they can take a human life," West said. "While they're trying to figure that out, the bad guy has already made that decision. They end up overpowering them and using the gun on the homeowner."

Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde said training is critical, especially when lives are at stake.

"We base everything we do on training," Wilde said. "Our guys are training to do the right thing. They're training in the law. They're training in reaction. They're training to make sure that when they have to make that split-second decision, they can make that decision.

"I believe that everybody has that right to have that weapon (but) we don't want people injuring themselves; injuring other people."

Once a gun owner is trained in the use of the weapon, Wilde said it also is important to enroll in the concealed-carry course if they plan to take their weapons outside their homes, so gun owners understand when and where a firearm can be carried.

For example, drinking any amount of alcohol and carrying a weapon is strictly prohibited, Italiano said. Chasing someone who is fleeing your home, and no longer poses a threat, also is against the law.

"That is our job," Wilde said. "The general public needs to understand they have a responsibility if they choose to have a weapon, and that ... goes for safety; it goes for how you carry the weapon, how you take care of it, how you store the weapon. "Understand the laws pertaining to that weapon."

Wilde and Italiano encourage gun owners to take their weapons to the gun range often, so they become comfortable shooting.

"Not only will they be more confident with it, they'll be safer with it," Wilde said. "If they are using the gun, then there is less chance of somebody accidentally getting injured and they'll have a better understanding of just that (gun's) operation."

Jen Mathewson can be reached at 542-6751. Comment on this story at Post Talk at www.postregister.com/post talk.

Firearms Training

Zeb Graham: NRA law enforcement instructor, NRA training counselor, concealed weapon training, Utah concealed weapon instructor, basic firearms training. Call 317-8867

Allen Hall: Idaho State Police POST certified. Call 524-1036

Lou Lang: NRA training counselor, NRA firearms instructor, advanced tactical self-defense, Utah concealed firearms. Call 709-1708

Joe Maughan: NRA pistol and rifle instructor, Utah concealed weapons, basic and advanced firearms and tactics. Call 821-6688

Don West: NRA instructor, Department of Energy advanced firearms instructor, Utah concealed carry instructor. Call 520-5670

Pete Italiano: concealed carry permit, home invasion training, use of force, predeployment skills, SWAT operations. Call 352-3020

Local firearms Instructor club classes: visit www.srfi-training.com

Fish & Game hunters' education: visit

www.fisghandgame.idaho.gov