More and more Central Valley residents are taking their safety in their own hands, with applications for concealed weapons permits at an all-time high.
Tulare County homeowner Ginger Barnes is one of them. She's been around guns since marrying her husband 47 years ago. But she's never taken formal lessons til now. She's getting instruction at The Firing Lane in Clovis and is also thinking about getting her CCW - or Conceal Carry Weapons - permit. She says, "Hey, what do we need to do? We need to protect yourself. But you need to know how to do it professionally."
Firearms instruction Natalie Paulus has noticed women, in particular, signing up for more classes. She says it's gone from one out of four in class being female to more than half. Her classes for CCW training are also full. Right now, you can legally have a gun in your own home or your own business - if all the employees approve. With the permit, you can bring it wherever you go, except government buildings, schools and some other public places. You used to have to prove that you faced a specific threat to get a CCW, but the rules have eased up. Almost anyone can apply and people are taking advantage. In Fresno County alone, the application process can take up to a year. It used to take just months. Since Sheriff Margaret Mims' second term began in 2010, she's issued 4,430 CCW permits. Each person goes through an extensive background check and must also be interviewed by Deputy Investigators. Sheriff Mims says, "I'd much rather have law-abiding citizens carrying weapons, ready to protect themselves and others, rather than the bad guys having weapons. We know they already do. Why shouldn't law-abiding citizens have that ability?"
Ginger Barnes agrees. The Fresno County resident has waited almost a year for her interview. It's later this month. She says, "The guns are always gonna be on the street. The criminals are always gonna have them. It doesn't matter. You can try to take guns away, but you're never gonna get them away from the criminals."
In some counties, the wait for a concealed weapons permit is nowhere near as long as Fresno County's, where there are only four people handling all the applications. But Sheriff Mims plans to add more investigators to the unit later this year.