October 27, 2007
Who’s packing? Almost 2,000 area residents
Zach Stipe | email@example.com – 09.23.2007
LIMA — A man walks through Lima with a loaded handgun in his pocket, blending in amongst a crowd of people.
And he’s doing it legally.
That’s because Ohio’s concealed-carry law, enacted in April 2004, allows any Ohio resident who meets the requirements to get a concealed-weapon permit to carry a gun out of plain sight almost anywhere in the state.
There are 938 people in Allen County with a concealed-carry license.
Afraid? Don’t be, says Steve Teutsch, a 14-year gun safety class instructor.
“The people that do get the permits, they’ve jumped through all the hoops,” Teutsch said. “They’re upstanding people. They are the ones that follow the law. They are not the problem.”
Little controversy has surrounded the concealed-carry law since it took effect April 8, 2004.
There have been few, if any, documented problems involving concealed carry license holders, and area sheriffs said the law has been great for their communities.
“I think it’s a great law,” Allen County Sheriff Daniel Beck said. “It is something Ohio needed.”
Putnam County Sheriff James Beutler added, “I think [the concealed-carry law] has contributed to a decrease of crime in the United States.”
Who has them?
These concealed-carry license holders are men like 91-year-old Lima resident Robert Minnard.
“If I was [a criminal and] looking for an easy mark and I saw an old man getting in a car in a parking lot,” he said, “I’d go and knock ’em off and take his money.
“That’s what is a possibility.”
They’re women like 64-year-old Bobbie Hall, of Lima, who obtained a license to carry a concealed gun because of an old nighttime job and her deteriorating neighborhood.
“I just think it’s important to have some protection because there’s some crazies out there,” Hall said. “They don’t play, and neither do I.”
They’re people like Thomas J. Lucente Jr., a columnist and editor for The Lima News, who obtained his license for multiple reasons right after he returned from the war in Iraq in 2004.
“First, obviously to protect myself and my family,” he said. “I’ve received my share of death threats through the years.”
These are just a snapshot of 1,740 residents of Allen, Auglaize, Hardin, Putnam and Van Wert counties who currently have a concealed-carry permit.
Snapshot of a carrier
The Lima News collected the names, dates of birth and counties of residence of every person in those five counties who holds a concealed-carry license.
Along with 938 Allen County residents, there are 315 permit holders in Auglaize County, 185 in Van Wert County, 174 in Hardin County and 128 in Putnam County.
The average age of a permit holder in the area is 51.
Nearly half, 49.3 percent, of area permit holders fall between the ages of 50 and 69. A person has to be 21 to obtain a handgun, but only 8.9 percent of area permit holders are in their 20s.
Concealed carry license holders are doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, city councilmen and everywhere in between. They say they obtained the licenses for a variety of reasons, but mostly just to feel safe.
“I think law-abiding citizens should have the right and ability to defend themselves,” said 1st Ward Lima City Councilman Ray Magnus. “I carry a handgun with me everywhere. Matter of fact, I’ve got one on me right now in my vehicle. I’m a big proponent of concealed carry.”
Magnus, along with fellow councilmen Derry Glenn and Tommy Pitts, are three of the most notable area residents who have concealed-carry licenses.
Decision to carry
Most permit holders are not public figures, but just regular, everyday people like Minnard, who is the oldest person in Allen County with a concealed-carry license at 91.
He obtained the permit with his son at the Allen County Sheriff’s Office in 2004, but can only remember carrying a gun once since then.
“I figured I might need it in a parking lot,” Minnard said. “I have a cane. People might think I’m an easy mark.”
A good portion of permit holders are like Minnard and rarely, if ever, carry a gun with them.
Teutsch said he’s probably only carried a concealed gun half a dozen times since the law was enacted.
Jane Bushong obtained a license because she is in the real estate business. However, she has yet to purchase a gun.
“It’s something I thought might be necessary and a lot of women should do it,” she said. “Probably I’ve made a mistake by not buying one yet. Realtors have a lot of stuff you should do for safety. There are a lot of situations you’re not sure about.”
Still others, like Hall, own a license and a gun so they won’t have to live in fear.
She said the neighborhood she lives in is full of drug dealers, but she doesn’t want to relocate.
“I ain’t movin’,” Hall said. “I bought my house in 1973. I can’t live my life being afraid. I just make sure I have my gun. Most of ’em ain’t ready for a woman with a gun.”
William Askins, of Elida, said he occasionally will carry a gun strapped to his body by an elastic band with clips, almost in his armpit.
“The police can’t be everywhere,” he said. “They usually don’t show up until after something has happened, so if I desire I can carry a concealed weapon in legal places and protect myself or somebody around me.”
A high standard
Every person who receives a license from a county sheriff’s office passes a 12-hour training class recognized by the National Rifle Association or the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission. Each must also pass a thorough background check administered by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
The sheriff’s offices make sure no criminals slip through the cracks and reserve the right to take a license away at anytime.
Walter Cox, at 51, is the average age of an area permit holder. He lives in Perry Township. He obtained the license about two years ago, mostly because of the educational value of the classes.
“I would suggest any individual, even if they do not ever want to carry a gun, go through a CCW [concealed carry weapon] class,” Cox said. “It’s more for education than for anything else and not a bunch of sickos carrying a gun. If bad guys think there might be a gun out there, they’d think twice.”
Cox said he used to carry a concealed gun during large money deliveries to banks for his work years ago when concealed carry was allowed if a person could prove he needed protection. He hasn’t carried a hidden handgun since he got his license.
“I’ve made sure it’s all legal because I have nothing to hide,” he said.
Learning for safety
According to Teutsch, who has been teaching an NRA-sponsored gun safety class in Lima for 14 years, nearly half the people in his classes are like Cox and enroll for educational purposes.
He said 40 percent of students in his classes don’t even get a permit.
“They take it for safety reasons. They take it for the training,” Teutsch said. “Some of them could care less about the concealed-carry permit.”
Teutsch, along with Marty McCaslin, Dennie Horlander and Susan Ohl, teach that using a gun is the absolute last option in their NRA training classes.
Their class, held at Lima Sabres Gun Club, is actually 18 hours long and lasts two days. There is a lecture portion of the class, which teaches the ins and outs of guns, such as how to safely handle, safely load and safely unload a gun. Part of the class also covers personal protection in the home.
Trainees must score at least an 80 percent on a written exam over the lecture material and show proficiency after four hours of shooting practice on the range to get their license.
“We teach defensive shooting,” said the 58-year-old Horlander, who has a permit and is a substitute school teacher. “To use a firearm for self-defense is your last resort. Your back’s against the wall.”
The classes, which meet once a month, cost $100 and have 15 to 20 participants. They tackle safety in general.
“We teach attitude,” McCaslin said. “Do not become the victim. If you’re going to look like a lamb, you’re going to be eaten by the wolves. So don’t walk down the street looking like a lamb.”