Concealed-gun demand skyrockets after shootings
Utah's Bureau of Criminal Identification, already overwhelmed by an upward swing in concealed weapon permit applications, is seeing a further wave in demand following the Trolley Square tragedy in February.
BCI Chief Ed McConkie says that after a lag of about two weeks - about the time it takes to attend firearms safety classes and get fingerprinted and photographed - the applications started to pour in for the required criminal background checks.
"It almost doubled after the Trolley Square shootings for a couple of weeks," McConkie says. "We are getting 400 to 500 a day. Before, it was 200-270."
Though Utah has been issuing about six of 10 permits to out-of-state residents, this new wave is driven by Utahns, he says.
"The Trolley Square shootings was a horrific, historic, violent act," McConkie says. "People reacted in different ways. Many people wanted a concealed carry permit and people who had let their permits go dormant reapplied."
Firearms instructor Clark Aposhian says his classes, usually with fewer than 10 students, have swelled to 20 or 30. "Since the 13th of February, I'm teaching easily 150 a week."
Aposhian says he has been asked to train 45 employees from one company and even a large Salt Lake church group. He declined to identify them.
Aposhian says many of his students ask him what they should do if confronted with a Trolley Square scenario.
"Do whatever it takes to go home every night," Aposhian says. "There is no expectation [for a concealed weapon carrier] to engage."
If a door to safety is available - take it, Aposhian tells his students. "But if there's a man with a shotgun between you and that door - the situation changes. We do not encourage nor discourage engagement."
If an increased number of Utah citizens are taking comfort in concealed handguns, some police officers are not. Besides the difficulty of differentiating between a well-meaning citizen with a weapon and a criminal with one, Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Jeff Nigbur says officers are trained to respond in life-or-death situations.
"An officer receives a lot of training," Nigbur says. For instance, "Before moving out with guns blazing to help out the situation, an officer is going to take in to account the backdrop - who is behind that drywall that I'm going to put five rounds through? Will a regular citizen consider that? I know an officer does."