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Concealed-carry applications increase sharply

Mike Monk, a White Hall police officer and a concealed handgun carry license instructor, has seen the number of permit applications soar in recent months.

“Since November we have been doing four to five classes a month and all are full,” Monk told The Progress.

Before the surge classes were held on the third Saturday of each month.

The weapons licenses jumped in Jefferson County from 1,328 in 2008 to 4,425 currently, according to Bill Sadler, spokesman for the police agency, compared with 56,350 statewide in 2008 and 138,378 in March.

Sadler said state police are receiving 9,000 applications for new licenses and renewals each month

The state police noticed a surge in concealed handgun applications since the December shooting at a Newtown, Conn., school, Col. Stan Witt told a civic club recently. The agency director said the spike in requests generated a backlog in for the state police.

Monk cites the “political climate since November and the most active school incidents in Newtown in Aurora, Colo.,” for the increase in permit applications.

“Most of the applicants just want to take action for their own safety and security,” Monk said. “Some are anti-government, and see the politicians as wanting to take their guns.”

A former school teacher, Monk is a school resource officer assigned to White Hall High School. While he wears a police uniform some days at the school, he prefers casual clothing to fit in with students.

About half of the students who enroll for Monk’s classes own a handgun, but a “majority view the weapon like you would a fire extinguisher in your home or taking a snakebite kit on a camping trip,” he said.

Once a candidate completes a weapons course, the state police notify local municipal police and county sheriff’s offices and allow 30 days for the local agencies to file an objection.

The Arkansas State Police website lists licensed instructors by counties. Robert Hutcheson of White Hall, Charles Derby of Redfield and Monk are among 12 in Jefferson County.

Monk and his brother Ed charge $100 for classroom and firearms training at their office and range on Gravel Pit Road. Instructors charge fees ranging from $50 to $175, he said.

An online application and background check for a new license costs $147.25, with individuals 65 and older paying $95.25. An online renewal costs $63.

Students in his classes are urged to be aware of their surroundings and to take advantage of the circumstances available to them, Monk said.