The face of gun ownership is changing, especially in Illinois. Statistically, 60 percent of American gun owners are white, adult males.
However, since the introduction to concealed carry, females in Illinois are signing up left and right for firearm owner ID (FOID) cards and concealed carry licenses (CCL), leveling the playing field, said NRA Certified Instructor Joshua Paul Harmon.
Harmon said of his students who attend the concealed carry classes he offers, about 40 percent are females ages 21 to 71.
A Gallup poll last year revealed that 23 percent of women nationwide are gun owners, which is an increase of 10 percentage points in just eight years.
This year’s statistics aren’t available; although Illinois officials report an influx of female FOID applications being processed since the concealed carry law has passed.
When Harmon and his team of other retired military veterans began the course last year, they had no idea how many women would take interest.
In an effort to cater to the growing demand, the team of instructors began offering the 16-hour course to women in special sessions. They teach co-ed and all male courses as well.
Harmon, who is also a martial arts and self-defense instructor, opened his classroom and shooting range recently to women in a two-day training session for mothers and daughters.
“Dads and sons bonding over guns are typical. This was something really special that no one else was doing,” he said.
Combatting ‘scare tactics’
Hosting the special event allowed him to go through an introduction to handguns and firearm safety with new users before delving into mandated curriculum.
“Most of them had never shot or held a gun,” he said. “They were quick learners and one of my students is already enrolled in marksmanship competitions. She grew up in an anti-gun household.”
Although her mother had no firearm experience, she told her daughter that guns were simply too dangerous.
“She still doesn’t care much for them, but as she learned, she admitted it was her own ignorance and fear holding her back,” Harmon said. “It’s the scare tactics she learned and so many grow up with, that give guns a bad name. Now her daughter is a great shot and loves it.”
Gun manufacturers are well aware of the latest trend of armed women. Some of the newer pistols are made in several shades of pink and are smaller than ever to fit smaller hands, as well as to be more concealable. Many are difficult to get a hold of because of the high demand, however.
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Holsters for the smaller handguns are also flying off of the shelves. Targeting women, there are now several sporting goods stores and websites offering varieties including brassiere, belly bands, waistbands, thigh and ankle holsters.
New products are being cranked out daily to accommodate the fastest growing consumers. They include purses, bags, “Thunderwear” and specially designed tank tops that have gun pockets.
Harmon said CCL students always have a lot of questions, but the most frequent are:
What do I need to apply for a CCL?
In Illinois, US citizens must first obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification card, driver’s license or State ID, pass a 16-hour ISP approved course and apply online. (Each process comes with fees and requires a current photograph of the applicant.)
What is the cost?
ISP charges $153.00 for a resident permit, $300 for nonresidents. A FOID card is $10. Class fees vary by instructor, typically ranging from $100 to $250. Fingerprinting, though not mandatory, costs between $50 and $65.
Does everyone have to take the 16 hour course?
Active, retired and honorably discharged members of the United States Armed Forces are exempt for 8 hours of the 16-hour course.
How long does it take to receive a license?
ISP has 90 days after receiving an application to approve or deny it. Without the submission of fingerprints it can take 120 days. If any law enforcement agency submits an objection to an application, it will be referred to the Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board, which has an additional 30 days to review the applicant’s paperwork.
Where can’t I carry?
No-gun zones include all government buildings, schools – preschool through universities — and bars with more than 50 percent gross alcohol sales. Those also include airports, state parks, museums, stadiums, libraries, public transit, mental health facilities, nursing homes and hospitals.
However, each business has the option of posting a no-gun sign. Private residents do not need to post a sign, however the CCL carrier must get permission to carry on their property.
Licensees are permitted to carry within their vehicle and into parking areas, and may store an unloaded firearm or ammunition concealed in a case within a locked vehicle out of plain view in instances where they are not allowed to carry into a certain location. They may also carry an unloaded concealed firearm around a vehicle to place or retrieve from their trunk.
For more information, or to apply for Illinois CCL, visit the ISP website at ccl4illinois.com. Illinois CCL is valid in the following states: AK, AL, AZ, IN, ID, IA, KS, KY, MI, MO, MS, NC, OK, SD, TN, UT and VT.