Guns are evil.
That's the myth Don Cole has been trying to dispel, one student at a time.
Instead, it's the person behind the weapon that matters, Cole said.
"That's what I'm trying to get people to understand," he said. "This is not the deadly item everybody thinks it is."
A certified gunsmith and firearms instructor, Cole has been in business in Sandusky since 1984.
"Firearms themselves don't hurt anybody," he said. "It takes someone to pick it up and use it."
Cole teaches a Conceal Carry Weapon class, which is required to obtain a CCW license.
After completing the 12-hour class, participants receive a certificate. Then, if they choose to apply for a license, they can take a copy of the certificate to the sheriff's office along with a photo, application for a license and $55.
"I'm here to teach you how to be safe. I'm not here to force this lifestyle on anyone," Cole said. "If you choose to get a Conceal Carry Weapon license, that's up to you."
Throughout the class Cole not only addresses how to use a firearm, but a variety of safety issues that come along with that responsibility. The course consists of 10 hours of in-house training and two hours at a shooting range. Cole goes over how to fire a gun, the different types of guns, proper handling and transportation.
The reasons why someone may want a conceal carry license are not limited to personal protection. They also include hunting, competitive and recreational shooting and collecting.
"I know people that have a lot of firearms; I don't think they've ever shot them," Cole said.
Those who take a firearms safety class are usually not the ones committing crimes, he said.
During the course Cole tries to have a lawyer and a police officer speak to participants about the legal ramifications they may encounter when carrying a firearm.
Stu Lippe, a lawyer who practices in Cleveland, advises participants of their rights when carrying a gun and also what the law says about firearms.
"The criminals don't go to the store and register and buy a gun legally," Lippe said. "Nobody's going to go through the permit class and go out there and shoot up everybody."
Thirty-five states allow gun carrying permits, he said. In Ohio alone there are about 43,000 registered permit holders.
"Until the middle of 2007 not one of them had committed a crime," Lippe said, trying to dispel the myth that conceal carry holders are criminals.
Class participants are also made aware of the restrictions that come with trying to carry a gun on someone's person. Government buildings and some local businesses strictly prohibit firearms.
The two major causes of firearm accidents are ignorance and carelessness, said Cole, a Pennsylvania Gunsmith School graduate.
But in reality, states that have conceal carry laws tend to have lower crime rates, Cole said.
That's one reason Scott Leiter of Clyde was prompted to take the course.
"I just did it for a multitude of reasons. One was because of our right to carry arms," he said. "A lot of places that have higher registrations with conceal carry have lower crime rates, too."
Doing heating and air conditioning work on the side, Leiter said having a conceal carry license could prove beneficial when going to jobs.
"I have a vehicle with a lot of tools in it and everything else," he said. "If I was in the wrong neighborhood ... I could be made a victim, too."
An avid firearm carrier, Cole said he has never had to fire a weapon in self-defense.
"I don't want to see anyone ever have to shoot someone," Cole said. "What I'm trying to teach you here is to be proactive, not reactive."
* Interested in getting your license?
- The class is 12 hours long
- Class is offered when enough people sign up
- Cost is $100
- To sign up, call 419-621-9413
- For more info on Ohio's CCW law visit www.ag.state.oh.us