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Interest in conceal carry training increases in Will County

Tim Wiklacki and Charles Powell have been training people for several years on how to properly use firearms.

But after the Firearm Concealed Carry Act passed the Illinois Legislature in July – and went into effect in early 2014 – they turned their instructional sessions into a business, a New Lenox-based gun safety school called Total CCW that includes training courses for concealed carry licenses.

“Business is going good,” Powell said. “But it’s not just about making money. As a gun enthusiast I want people to be safe with them.”

As each day passes with the new law, Illinois State Police are seeing more people apply to become certified concealed carry instructors.

More than 1,900 Illinois residents are certified concealed carry instructors as of Saturday night, according to the state police website. Will County has 113 certified instructors, many of them current or former law enforcement officials.

State police have on average received 1,000 permit applications daily since opening the process to pre-qualified citizens Dec. 18. The first day of the new law boomed with 4,525 applications, Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

“Not all of those make it to the next phase, which is now a 30-day process law enforcement objection period, the hard part,” Bond said. “These are applicants who have completed all the required steps, obtained fingerprints, showed their firearms training certificate.”

More than 11,000 applicants are in the next phase, which allows any law enforcement agency from any jurisdiction the ability to look at the application and reject it. If state police substantiates the law enforcement agency’s claim, the applicant can be kicked out of the process.

Anyone can challenge a concealed carry instructor’s eligibility through a complaint form on the state police website.

Safety was a key issue when the new law was being discussed in Springfield. So legislators made the path to get the certificate one of the toughest in the nation, according to Ron Van Dyke, the owner of RP Shooting Sports in Joliet.

“The state doesn’t provide a curriculum to teach. We have to do that.” Van Dyke said. “But they do provide guidelines that we used to create our course.”

According to the new law, concealed carry courses must provide students with 16 hours of training, with less time required if the applicant has previous accepted law enforcement or military training.

In those 16 hours, the curriculum must teach firearm safety, the basics of marksmanship, gun care and weapons handling.

While safety is the most important part of Van Dyke’s course, he also teaches decision-making skills, which he said was important because of the unpredictable nature of circumstances. He has five concealed carry instructors certified police officers on staff.

“The knowledge that comes with being an officer helps,” said RP Shooting Sports instructor John Byrne, who is also on the Joliet police force. “We talk about what happens in situations where they may need to use a gun.”

While RP Shooting Sports is not endorsed by Joliet Police, Byrne said he and another officer were given permission for a secondary job.

Van Dyke said he has received positive feedback on the program by students.

“They went over a lot of different scenarios and different laws,” New Lenox resident Genelle Chisholm said. “They were thorough and covered every avenue in the class. You’re really going to think before you do pull the trigger.”

Chisholm now owns a gun and the permit, and plans on concealing it to keep her safe.

“I didn’t want to be a victim and I want to protect myself as needed,” she said.

Total CCW’s students also appreciated the rigors of the course, even those as experienced as Patrick Macica, who has been shooting since he was 7.

“It’s our right to own a gun, really a right and freedom,” Macica said.

While Macica knew the basics of shooting, he still found the class valuable.

“I learned about ballistics and even what’s inside a bullet,” Macica said. “The guys here are very knowledgeable and they explained the ins and outs of guns, especially safety.”

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