Increase in citizens with CCWs changing how Utah police train for mass shootings

Posted at 9:20 PM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 10:04:38-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- In the wake of the shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino, a Utah sporting goods store is reporting an uptick in gun sales.

Concealed Carry Permit classes at Al’s Sporting Goods in Logan have been jammed.

“Usually try to do one every two weeks, but we’ve had to have one and two a week, and they’ve been completely booked,” said Kris Larsen, CEO for Al’s Sporting Goods.

Larsen believes national discussions on gun control and a heightened desire for personal protection are driving the increased interest.

But should you pull your gun in a mass shooting situation?

“I’m not discouraging anybody from protecting themselves and other people’s lives, that’s why they have a CCW, that’s why they have that: I’m absolutely supportive of that,” said Lieutenant Lex Bell with Unified Police Department.

But, he has a warning for anyone that does take action:  “We’re hunting the person who is killing people, and we know that, and we’re prepared for that mentally, I think, when we respond to this.  We’re not going there to arrest somebody.”

According to Bell, police have to focus on eliminating the threat before more lives are lost.  That could put you in danger, if you have pulled your weapon.

“We are just looking for the guy with the gun who is killing people,” Bell said.

More than 200,000 Utah citizens have concealed carry permits, and more than 20,000 new permits were issued in November.  It is part of the reason why local law enforcement agencies are starting to change the way they train for emergencies like mass shootings.

“Not everybody carrying a gun out there is going to be a bad guy, so that is definitely something that has to be addressed in trainings,” said Lt. Alex Lepley.

Lepley works for the Utah Highway Patrol, and part of his duties include training troopers for mass shooting scenarios.

“Several recent trainings we had actually involved citizens who were identified as concealed carry holders," he said.

The key, according to Lepley, is to comply immediately with an officer’s commands.  Put down your gun, and don’t be surprised if you are cuffed.  He says it is no time for hurt feelings, as police are simply trying to determine friend or foe.

Lieutenant Bell agrees.

“I just don’t want them to become a victim as well, because we don’t know who they are when we go in," he said.