Caitlin Rowcrow@gjfreepress.com

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January 3, 2013
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A primer for responsible gun ownership

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - With so much discussion - locally, statewide and nationally - about crafting more restrictive regulations regarding the ownership and use of guns and ammunition throughout the U.S., many are likely left wondering: "What's happening with current gun regulations in my backyard?"The answer: Nothing has changed for citizens living under the letter of the law, yet. But, understanding local gun-ownership regulations is important on a variety of levels. As someone interested in gun ownership and use, staying current on safe practices and regulations may save a life. And understanding the nature of gun-ownership laws now may also encourage educated, timely conversations on guns and their place in society today."We believe in very responsible gun ownership," said David Gifford, a board member and gun-safety instructor with Action Pistol Group. "We have sympathy and empathy for all victims of horrible acts, and we believe in the powers of training.""There's a huge difference between responsible gun owners and people who are abusing and misusing (firearms)," Gifford added.Action Pistol Group focuses on providing comprehensive self-defense and concealed-carry classes - including hands-on training and legal knowledge - for citizens of the Grand Valley. And a variety of classes are available to the public now.To learn more about the basics of responsible gun ownership, read the following Q&A:

A. In one word, the answer is "YES!" Everyone needs training to learn about using a gun properly and safely - whether it's a hunting rifle or a pistol. And you'll need a good understanding of the rules and implications of using a gun, even if it's just for target practice and competitive shooting. Gun ownership and responsibility should be synonymous, and improper use of any gun can lead to tragedy. Plus, proper storage of firearms and ammunition is just as important as learning responsible use.Linn Armstrong, a Grand Valley firearms instructor with the National Rifle Association, suggests taking classes to learn about gun ownership and the connected responsibilities, whether one is a beginner or a gun expert."A lot of people aren't familiar with the laws, and understanding how the laws work is very important for every level," he said.

A. Yes, but with limitations and only if you have a permit.One thing's for certain: To conceal a gun and carry it on one's body in Mesa County, it's required that a person have special training, classes and a completion certificate, along with a background check.According to Colorado State Patrol District 4's Major Barry Bratt in Fruita, there are many components to being eligible for a concealed-carry permit. One must be a legal resident of the state and age 21 or over. Applicants cannot have a criminal record, be convicted of perjury, use alcoholic beverages regularly to the point of impairment, and they can't be addicted to a controlled substance. Other considerations: Applicants must not be subject to a protection order (like domestic violence) and they additionally must demonstrate competency when operating a firearm. This would be done, for example, by taking a class or being in the military. And, the sheriff may reject any applicant if he believes the person could pose a threat to him- or herself or others.If approved, a permit must be renewed over time with additional background checks. A person who has a concealed-carry permit from another recognized state could carry a concealed firearm in Colorado, Bratt added."The laws aren't complex, but details can be researched and taught in class," Gifford said. "It takes us three hours to teach that particular section of the law (in an Action Pistol Group class) and it's taught by a law-enforcement officer or an attorney."Such a class is recommended for anyone interested in personal gun ownership.

A. Concealing a gun on your person can be done in a variety of ways; it's a personal preference. "(A gun) must be hidden and not easily recognizable under clothing," Gifford said. "I don't believe it is wise of us to advertise that we have a concealed gun on us. The fewer people to know about that, the better. Some people are extremely uncomfortable around guns, and they have a right not to hear about it or be aware of it."Also, once someone has received a concealed-carry permit, they must learn where they can and cannot go with a firearm; there are a variety of places people can't carry a concealed gun, despite having a legal permit."Just because you have a concealed-carry permit, it doesn't mean you have to have it concealed," Bratt added.Additionally, regulations pertaining to gun ownership and concealed-carry permits can vary from city to town and state to state. One must always research local and state laws before traveling with a gun, whether it's for protection or for hunting.

A. Colorado law allows residents to possess a handgun in a home, place of business, or a vehicle."The way the law states it now (in Colorado), a gun can be open-carried," Gifford said. "You can, in fact, wear it on the outside of your clothing and be legal without a special permit. If you think that might raise some eyebrows or attention to you, you'd be right. It's not illegal. It's just not necessary, and it's in poor taste for a person to do that."Gifford additionally said that wearing a firearm visibly in a public place would likely draw the attention of local law enforcement.Being aware of one's surroundings is an exercise in good judgment, he added. For example, traveling through certain areas with a firearm, like a school zone, isn't allowed. Being aware of restrictions and taking alternative routes to stay within the law would be the responsible solution.

A. Any time a firearm is used against someone else, there will be an investigation by law enforcement, Bratt said. And, from there, it will be decided whether the person acted within the law or not.Just remember: Owning and using a gun means you are responsible for your actions taken with it."Just because you have a concealed-carry permit, use of a firearm is not always appropriate," Gifford said. "Being a good witness, understanding what's going on, may be a better avenue."

A. Mesa County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said: "There are no local municipal laws for the city or county regarding guns or ammunition that I am aware of."

A. Yes. When purchasing a gun through any retailer, applicants must undergo a background check during the approval process. Gifford said, in his experience, gun shows have made an effort toward consistent selling practices, too. They should currently operate as any retailer would, with transactions going through dealers requiring background checks for prospective buyers. "Rules should be consistent," he said.Bratt noted, however, that unregulated gun sales between private parties still do happen - like at garage sales or through classified advertisements. And, in that instance, it's unlikely that background checks are carried out by the seller.

To sign up for a class with the Action Pistol Group, visit www.actionpistolgroup.com. This local organization teaches classes on pistol-related laws, conceal and carry, operation and maintenance, as well as personal protection in the home. Or visit the NRA website for local class listings: www.nra.org.


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 3, 2013 05:11PM Published Jan 3, 2013 03:32PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.