by John Boch
The Illinois State Police have done a fine job creating a chokepoint for Illinois gun owners in their handling of the mandated training requirements of the new Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act. Illinois residents wishing to exercise their right to carry a firearm outside the four corners of their home are soon going to discover there aren’t nearly enough training locations or available seats for the required training needed to apply for a carry license . . .
Experts estimate that at least 300,000 Illinoisans will apply for a carry license during the year 2014, and the best guess is that 150,000 of those applications will come within the first sixty days once applications are available – if training is available, that is.
The problem lies with the slow-walking of the approval process for instructors and courses. It’s been nearly three months since the law’s enactment and the state police have thus far approved fewer than five dozen instructors. \The good news is that today’s 54 is up from fewer than two dozen approved a week ago!
Unfortunately, there are still zero courses approved at the moment, despite a plethora of hard chargers (fraudsters?) unlawfully advertising Illinois-approved concealed carry classes ahead of having any courses (and in many cases, the instructors as well) with an official blessing.
The ISP has pledged to do a batch release of courses and instructors on September 30th. From the ISP website:
On September 30, 2013, the Illinois State Police will post a list of all previously submitted curricula the Department has approved. At that time, we will have updated the registry to include as many approved instructors as possible.
Don’t think for a minute that the ISP to promise a release the information on the last day of the month wasn’t based upon a) pressure and publicity generated by Illinois gun owners and gun rights activists in the past couple of weeks and b) the upcoming hearing in the Shepard case in front of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on October 3rd.
Let’s do some back-of-the-napkin figuring, shall we?
On September 30th we’ll be about 90 days out from applications being available from the State Police. If every one of those currently-approved instructors holds a class every day with 10 students, that’s still fewer than 50,000 people having received the training required. And that’s a very optimistic number. Here’s why:
1. Those instructors aren’t going to work seven days a week, let alone Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
2. It will be a challenge to find 50 suitable range and classroom locations while we have decent outdoor weather. When the weather turns winter-like? Forget about it.
3. Some people will need the full 16 hours of training. Estimates vary on how many applicants will need 16 hours of training as opposed to eight vary, but it could easily be half. You can’t do a 16-hour class in one day.
4. One instructor handling 10 students is beyond what the NRA recommends for instructor-to-student ratio and particularly for beginner shooters. It just isn’t as safe as having more instructors per student. While there is no requirement that Illinois CCW classes also be NRA training classes, the NRA has a very successful training program and their guidelines are a result of many years of experience in the school of hard knocks. Only a fool would ignore the NRA training program’s real-world experience.
Some will say that the ISP will approve lots of instructors and courses in the coming days. If so, great! But the lack of available training facilities will still remain the limiting factor – doubly so when the weather turns bad. There are but a handful of indoor ranges in the state and it’s a pretty safe bet indoor range time will be commanding uber-premium pricing through this coming winter. While some facilities may keep the cost down to $15-20 per hour, don’t be surprised to pay $50 in places…where you can find a seat in a class.
As for firearm training outside in near- to sub-freezing temps…have you tried it lately? Cold weather isn’t conducive to good learning. When students can only think about how cold and numb their fingers are while holding a frigid piece of steel, they won’t be concentrating on learning new skills.
In the end, we in Illinois need the Illinois State Police to act expeditiously in approving instructors and coursework. Alternately, until the ISP gets its ducks in a row, we need the green light from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that FOID-card carry is acceptable.
John Boch is president of Guns Save Life. This article originally appeared there and is reprinted here with permission.