USA Today -- Should gun owners have to show they know how to use a gun safely before being granted a concealed-carry permit?
A just-passed Colorado law says yes and has banned online-only training for permits. Some other states say getting trained online is just fine.
The issue is the latest example of disagreement among states in the gun-control debate.
Most states require some form of training for an individual to be issued a carry permit, according to Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization that tracks state gun laws and advocates for gun control. At least six states, including Alabama and Pennsylvania, require carry permits but do not require any training, according to the center.
In Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming, people can carry without any type of permit or license, according to Gary Slider, creator of handgunlaw.us.
Colorado's law, which took effect in June, requires that a portion of firearm safety training for a carry permit be done in a physical classroom with an instructor present. It outlaws a firearm safety course completed solely online as an eligible training option.
Colorado state Sen. Lois Tochtrop, a Democrat, sponsored the bill. She voted in favor of the 2003 law that outlined the original firearm safety training requirements but never considered the impact of the Internet.
"Back then, the Internet was still in its infancy, and no one knew what could be done with it for education and training," she said. "The purpose of the (original) legislation was to ensure proper training, but these (online) courses do not adequately teach how to safely handle a gun."
Oregon has a similar measure sitting in its Legislature's rules committee. That bill, which originally required a live fire provision for firearm safety training, has been amended so it is simply an outright ban on online firearm safety training.
"With classes over the Internet ... you do not have the connection between the use of the weapon and the responsibility of the weapon," said Democratic state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, the bill's sponsor.
A 2009 Virginia law explicitly permits online courses as adequate training tools for concealed-carry permits.
After that law passed, Christopher Schutrop launched his Minnesota-based Online Carry Training website, which offers an online safety course. The course entails watching a 30-minute video covering the safe handling and storing of firearms and taking a 20-question test, Schutrop said.
Customers who complete the test with a score of 70% or better are rewarded with a printed completion certificate that can be used to obtain their carry permit or license. The service costs $70.
Online Carry Training has operated for about a year and a half. Schutrop also heads an in-person training facility in the state.
Online training is a "convenient option" for people in rural areas far from training facilities, Schutrop said. His online service is more affordable than in-person programs, which can cost hundreds of dollars, he said.
"This is not a replacement for live training, but it is a good stepping stone," he said. "It is not designed to be the end-all, be-all of gun education."
Idaho, Iowa, Oregon, Virginia and Wyoming accept training done entirely online for carry permits, according to Slider.
Permit and license reciprocity laws mean that some states honor the carry permits of other states, Schutrop said. This means that people living in some states can apply for non-resident permits from a state that allows online training, and it will be valid in their home state, Schutrop said.
Not all states accept permits from other states. California requires its residents to obtain their licenses or permits within the state.
Brad Hanscom of Florence, Ore., has participated in both online and in-person firearm safety courses. Although the in-person training "alarmed" him because it did not require a level of handgun proficiency, he said he preferred it to the online course.
"All I could envision was some upstanding citizen pulling a gun on an assailant, or maybe a crazed gunman, and shooting innocent bystanders due to their lack of skill," he said.
Massad Ayoob, director of the Massad Ayoob Group, which provides in-person training in safe weapon use, said that over the years, he has found gun owners to be "amazingly responsible people."
"Hands-on training certainly has a benefit, but I wouldn't mandate it," he said. "Personal training is expensive, and requiring it would create a system that accommodates the elite and makes it tougher for those in poverty who most need to be educated on how to safely operate a firearm."