Cape Gazette
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Commentary

On carrying concealed weapons in Delaware

By Larry Schmittinger | Mar 09, 2012
Larry Schmittinger is a retired financial adviser and freelance writer living in Lewes.

If you're one of the many Delawareans interested in obtaining a permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon, you should be ready to invest some time and money in the process. Delaware requires a criminal background check, fingerprints, and a firearms training course for those citizens wishing to obtain a  permit. Aside from having no felony record, you must also get written character references from five unrelated citizens who reside in your county. Passport photos are required, as well as a public notice ad in your local newspaper. You should also have a reason on your application that is something other than for the protection of your person and/or property. The total cost for this process will exceed $340, or about the price of the average used handgun. Clearly this cost will cut down on those who only have a passing interest in carrying concealed.

Having recently gone through this process myself, I must say I was unimpressed with the training segment. State law requires 16 hours of formal training, including live-fire training by a certified instructor. The live-fire segment includes a minimum of 100 rounds expended. As this segment of the requirements cost approximately $195 itself, I expected a good deal more in the way of hands-on training. Instead what I got was three nights of watching films with Q&A afterward, and one hour of firing my pistol in front of an instructor. There were no specific instructions other than 1) acquire your target, and 2) fire when ready. I am quite certain the intent of the law regarding the live-fire section is more than how to load the pistol and pull the trigger. Clearly the state needs to do some follow-up on how detailed the training programs are, and the kind of hands-on training that is conducted. I personally have a lifelong experience with guns of all kinds, so my need for specific hands-on training was minimal. But clearly, there were members of the training class who had never held a handgun before. Carrying a concealed deadly weapon is a huge personal responsibility. It is also a personal safety issue, in more ways than one.

There were 23 people in the training class. Reasons offered for the desire to have the permit varied among class participants. From “I want to get a permit while the government still allows me to,” to health reasons like "My heart condition will not allow me to run anymore, but I should still be allowed to defend myself if need be…” Other reasons offered were job related, like those who carry expensive consumer goods and equipment every day. Cops, most everyone in the class agreed, can't be everywhere.

As reported by NBC news, gun violence is up in America, proven by the number of law enforcement officers killed by gunfire in 2011. This was 71 police officers. This compares to 59 officers killed by gunfire in 2010, 49 in 2009, and 40 in 2008. It was the first time in 14 years that the number of officers killed by gunfire exceeded those killed in traffic-related incidents.

From its beginnings in the 1980s, the right-to-carry movement has succeeded in boosting the number of licensed concealed-gun carriers nationwide from fewer than one million to a record six million today, according to estimates from gun-rights groups that are supported by research from msnbc.com.

According to the Delaware Department of Justice, the trend in Delaware for requests to carry concealed has increased over the last several years. In 2009 there were 2,177 permits outstanding. In 2010 the number was 1,963. In 2011, the latest year for which they have statistics, there were 3,001 Delawareans issued permits to carry concealed deadly weapons. No breakdown by county was available.

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