Tim Oliver surveys the line of shooters, asking if everyone is ready. Only when all three of his assistants give him a thumbs-up does he give the command.
"One shot," he instructs. "Stand by. Fire."
A ripple of pistol fire rends the late-morning air.
This class of applicants will be among the first in the state who will not need to go through the Missouri Department of Revenue as part of the application process for a concealed-carry permit. A new law taking effect on Wednesday makes several changes to the CCW application process. Starting Wednesday, applicants for a concealed-carry permit will submit their application to their county sheriff as before. The difference is, the sheriff will issue the actual permit rather than a certificate clearing the applicant to get a concealed-carry endorsement added to their drivers' license. The permits will be valid for 5 years rather than the current 3 years.
Cole County sheriff Greg White said the new process will be simpler for applicants and make little difference to law enforcment. He noted that the county sheriffs already perform the requisite background checks and perform essentially every function except issuing the actual document authorizing the bearer to carry a concealed weapon. He said the new system does not allow anyone to compile a list of concealed-carry permit holders, though he could still search holders by name.
"For instance, I couldn't do an inquiry of, 'Who are all the CCW holders on the east side of Cole County," he said. "I have no way of pulling that data."
The new provisions also require county sheriffs to check all applicants through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. White said this should not add measurably to the application process because this involves a computer inquiry.
The new law came after revelations this spring that the DOR had handed over a database containing the names of all of Missouri's concealed-carry permit holders to the Missouri State Highway Patrol in response to a Social Security Administration inquiry. During hearings about the database in March, MSHP gave the SSA the database on a CD-ROM two separate occasions. SSA agents told a senate committee in April under oath they requested the database as part of an aborted investigation to see if people were falsely claiming mental disability to receive disability compensation. They said they were unable to read the discs each time and destroyed them.
Back on the shooting range at Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club, Oliver walks his students through a series of drills, having them take multiple shots at the same target and teaching them to engage two targets at once. In addition to the issuance changes, the new law tightens regulations for concealed-carry instructors. Starting Wednesday, persons seeking to become concealed-carry instructors will have to submit a notarized certificate from a firearm safety instructor's course either offered by a local, state or federal government agency or another course approved by the Department of Public Safety. That provision would not apply to certified police firearm instructors or anyone who has completed a firearm safety instructor course offered by the NRA or a law enforcement agency.
Oliver said this provision will ensure applicants are only trained by instructors who know what they are doing.
"What has happened, which we didn't envision when we wrote the law, is there are people who are actually running some diploma mills," he said. "We want only people who are properly trained to be getting concealed-carry permits and only people who are properly trained doing the instruction."
White said all of the state's sheriffs will start using dedicated card-printing equipment as a group no later than January 1, 2014. Until then, concealed-carry permits will be printed on cardstock. He said bearers may laminate the cards if the wish, though he said he doubted the cardstock cards would last 5 years.
Existing concealed-carry endorsements will remain valid for 3 years after they were issued. Once those endorsements expire, holders will receive a concealed-carry permit from their county sheriff if they choose to renew.