Local weapons classes feel impact of decision

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Staff photo by Will O'Brien

Doug Anderson, a retired Beloit Police Department detective, was one of two instructors of a concealed carry course recently held at Blackhawk Technical College. Here, he reviews loading and unloading procedures for the class of about 30, mostly middle-aged individuals.

Individuals applying for concealed carry permits in Wisconsin will no longer face minimum training requirements, a change welcomed with open arms by Second Amendment groups and other gun rights supporters.

But the sudden switch has thrown a wrench into the plans of Blackhawk Technical College, which hosted its first four-hour training course last Friday and had planned to offer additional classes in the near future, said Mark Brown, the Dean of Public Safety there.

"It will impact our plans," Brown said in an email Tuesday. "We plan to meet this week to discuss this issue and come up with a game plan. At this point there seems to be too much turmoil with our government, and I believe all the tech colleges are reassessing this program and what they will be doing with it."

Since the time of its drafting and through its implementation, Wisconsin's concealed carry law garnered much debate, and few people - law enforcement and legal professionals, included - seem to fully understand its intricacies.

In early October, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce held a seminar for its members to explain how businesses could be impacted.

Currently, the Beloit City Council is reviewing an ordinance that would counteract the state legislation and reinstate bans of dangerous weapons in city buildings like City Hall. Discussion of the ordinance drew public criticism and a round of questions from councilors at Monday's council meeting.

Interestingly enough, many of those who attended Blackhawk Tech's firearms safety course last week identified themselves as experienced, well-trained gun owners. They weren't there to relearn basics like loading and unloading a chamber, but rather, were seeking better understanding of Wisconsin's new law, many said.

Bruce Witkowski, a Beloit resident who served in the U.S. Navy and remains an avid hunter today, sat through the class with his wife Diane, who said she had experience with target shooting.

Two older gentlemen in the room's rear identified themselves as professional precision shooters, and several individuals said they already had concealed carry permits in other states.

"To me it's just a course to come and see what it's all about," said Brian Davidson, who said he served on the Beloit Police Department reserve from 1991 to 1996.

Despite all the experience in the room, instructor Douglas Anderson, a retired Beloit Police Department detective, told the class to anticipate running over the four-hour time period.

"We'll spend a little more time than the state has planned because we believe it is so important," he said.

Blackhawk chose Anderson and fellow instructor Corey Denzer, Brown said, because both men were certified to teach the Department of Justice's curriculum. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who originally implemented the four-hour rule, testified Monday in favor of maintaining minimum training requirements.

There's no doubt Blackhawk's course would be informative for first-time gun users. Anderson and Denzer were thorough with their instruction, pointing out specific mechanics on model guns and using class discussion to aid their lessons.

Anderson said gun owners should treat gun safety procedures as a "ritual" rather than an absent-minded "routine." He challenged experienced students to ask themselves if they'd grown complacent with lazy, unsafe habits.

"Your are responsible for that bullet every time you pull that trigger," he said authoritatively.

The class cost $4 for seniors and $15 for everyone else, Brown said.

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