GREEN: It was the middle of the night and the security alarm went off in Linda Lonsdorf’s home.
“It scared me to death,” the 64-year-old retired English teacher and mystery novelist recalled.
Her husband was out of town and she was alone.
It turned out to be a false alarm, but it led to action.
“I started realizing if that had been the real thing, what would I have done?”
So in 2009, Lonsdorf took a Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) class from her neighbor, retired Akron Police Capt. James “Jim” Yocum.
“I am the last person you would dream would take the course,” she said.
And she bought a firearm.
Lonsdorf is an example of an increasing number of Ohio women who are taking classes and getting permits, say area CCW instructors, and she is part of the growing legion of men and women who have obtained CCW permits.
The Ohio total is not available — the state doesn’t allow it — and there is no breakdown by gender.
Bill Holland, spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s office, said county numbers aren’t meaningful because a person can obtain a permit in a neighboring county. County sheriffs issue the permits.
That said, Summit County’s numbers are up dramatically. Before Christmas, the sheriff had issued 2,489 new CCW permits, up 56 percent from 1,599 in all of 2012. Renewals more than tripled to 1,738 from 494.
And, he said, there has been a transition in the type of people seeking permits, from the strong CCW advocates to, more recently, people in the middle who may have never had a strong opinion one way or another.
Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, a pro firearms political action committee, said his group estimates that about 392,000 Ohioans have CCW permits, and about 150,000 of those are women.
“A lot of instructors say women make up over half of their classes,” he said.
Over 10 years, the 79-year-old Yocum has taught two to three classes a year and estimates that he has taught about 300 people.
He has noticed an increase in the number of women.
“Maybe they don’t feel as secure,” he said.
“Some are supporters of the Second Amendment to the point they are like a Browns fan — they are fanatics — but most of them just feel safer taking the course.”
“Surprisingly, I find that some of my students never go get their license” after completing the course, he said.
Permits currently require 12 hours of instruction and are valid for five years. A so-called “stand-your-ground” bill that passed the Ohio House and is in the Senate would reduce the required hours from 12 to four and eliminate a requirement that a person attempt to flee a threatening situation rather than use force.
Roger Polk, 52, of Wadsworth Township, has one of the busiest training programs in the area.
Along with a few helpers, he estimates they have instructed more than 14,000 people since 2004.
A postal employee, Polk first taught a firearms classes as a Marine. When the Ohio CCW law was approved, he decided to offer low-cost classes. While some may charge $100 per person in small groups, his program is $46, but may be in groups of more than 100.
They come from across the state, sometimes on church buses, he said.
“Our motivation is very simple,” he said. “What we want to do is educate, train and arm as many law-abiding citizens as we can so that they can help protect our family when they are out and about.”
At first, the students were strong advocates for conceal carry, and most were men. Now, about half are women.
But, he said, “It is not for everyone.”
“Not all my family or your family, or whoever, wants to carry,” he said. “The more people we have who are educated, trained and armed in our community, the better chance we have — me and the coaches involved in the class — the better chance we have of those people protecting our family members.”
Polk said he has never had to draw his gun.
“That’s a good feeling,” he said. “I don’t want to change anybody’s mind. They don’t have to agree with CCW … But the people who want to be able to protect themselves and their family — I want to be able to make a decision whether I am going to live or die and I don’t want it all up to the bad guy…”
Pink guns on sale
Kris Gaugler, gun salesman at Ohio Supply & Tool in Wadsworth, also has noticed the changing demographics of gun ownership.
“I am seeing from 80-year-old women to fathers getting their 21-year-old daughters handguns,” he said.
Gun manufacturers are offering firearms that may be attractive to women, said Gaugler. His store carries a pink Mossberg semi-automatic .22 called a Plinkster.
Teresa Tharan, 51, a licensed practical nurse of Akron, said she was the victim of stalking, so she obtained a license in 2012 and purchased a weapon.
“I had never held a gun before,” she said. “I was kind of scared.”
She took a class at Commence Firearms in Cleveland, and almost all of the students were women, she said.
“I wanted to protect my home and my family and I don’t like how they are trying to take guns out of our hands,” she said.
She said that although she isn’t allowed to carry a weapon to her workplace, she feels safer overall.
“I feel like I am protected if something does happen,” she said.
Thinking about it
Akron husband and wife Paul and Sharon Lorentzen are gun owners and both plan to take a CCW class in 2014.
Sharon Lorentzen, 62, said she was attacked more than four decades ago while driving across New Mexico.
“I got the crap beat out of me,” she said. “That never leaves you.”
Paul Lorentzen, 71, a retired architect, said he wants the freedom to carry while walking his dog at night in their Highland Square neighborhood.
“I think it could deter serious crime if they think twice that you may be armed,” he said.
Fear is a major factor, said Akron CCW instructor Rick Starr, 54, who also is a pastor.
He said he is “saving lives spiritually or saving lives physically” by teaching about 1,500 people over five years how to handle a firearm
“It is called carrying concealed because you want to keep it secret and not advertise it to the public,” he said.
He believes there are two forces driving the interest.
“Unfortunately one of them is fear — fear of crime — and the other is fear that we will lose our privileges to carry concealed and that the government will step in and stop us.”
Owning the danger
Linda Lonsdorf said that after she took Yocum’s CCW class, he accompanied her to the store to help select a firearm.
She remains wary of the danger, even four years later. She said she does not carry the weapon for fear that it may go off in her purse.
But as a crime novelist, she has found the knowledge to be valuable. She has written three self-published novels — Family Threat, Evil Injustice and A Deadly Ruse — and is working on a fourth.
And she’s also concerned about her rights. Along with helping her feel more secure, the Coventry High School and Bob Jones University graduate, former Sunday school teacher, church choir member, and church secretary said she is also worried about the possibility of restrictions in gun ownership.
“I am concerned that they will take away our constitutional rights,” she said.
As for her instructor, Yocum said that in all of his time as a Marine and police officer, he only fired his gun once: A warning shot in the Marines.
Nonetheless, he said he carries all the time.
“It is my American Express card — I don’t leave home without it.”
“There is no question there is more violence today,” he said. “Police response time in an emergency — three minutes — is pretty good response time but a lot can happen to you in three minutes if you are being attacked,” he said. “People are realizing that, and they are getting firearms.
And he said, there is a fear for rights.
“The anti-gunners want to try to get rid of them,” he said. “You may as well try to get rid of gravity. It isn’t going to happen.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.