RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. - The number of people with concealed weapon permits is growing in Riverside County, particularly among women.
After moving to Riverside County about two years ago, Dezarae Payne has been helping those like her get comfortable with firearms.
“It’s my passion because I’m a female,” Payne said. “When I came here, I saw in California they didn’t have as many freedoms as we had where I came from. I wanted other women to have the same freedoms.”
As a member of the NRA Members’ Councils of California, she travels to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Ben Clark Training Center and all around the state teaching “Women on Target.”
A firearms course taught by women for women.
“We come in here [and] we do a mini basic pistol class,” Payne said. “It's very, very basic, and then the women will get to go out and shoot as much as they want to.”
In the last two years, she’s seen her numbers go up.
“They started going, I think probably 10 women, or went as small as five,” Payne said. “Now, we capped it at 30. It's a nice comfortable number. But within two weeks, the thing is full, sometimes days.”
And she’s not alone.
Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff said the department has issued more than 3,000 Carry Concealed Weapon (CCWs) permits.
“That's about six times what it was when I first took office 10 years ago,” Sniff said.
Sniff said their demand is now usually 500 to 600 applications, many of them are submitted by women.
He and Payne said this is in part due to changing times, and recent terror attacks including the 2015 San Bernardino attack and the recent Las Vegas shooting.
“Just the general mood and anxiety, and when these terrorist incidents strike close to home, coupled in with all of the mass shootings we've seen, it just is a tough time right now,” Sniff said.
Payne said she had one lady in her class that was a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting to get over
“She came here to get over that fear,” Payne said. “I think mostly it's because they see that the world is changing. The laws are changing. The males aren't necessarily going to be there when they're needed to protect them, and they want to protect themselves. Terrorism, bad guys, they're not just specifically targeting men. They target women.”
But the recent surge of interest in CCWs, Sniff said, has created a backlog. So much so, it could take about two years for some to get a permit.
Sniff said this stems partly from county budget issues and not enough resources.
“Our department is downsized by about 13 percent of its workforce across all the different job classes,” Sniff said. “We've kept the CCW unit going. But it's way to small for the demand.”
But Sniff hopes to see the backload go down, while Payne believes more women will be pulling the trigger.
“More women are going to get more involved in it, because they're going to see others getting involved,” Payne said. “They're going to want to keep going. Times aren't getting easier for women.”
Sniff said a third-party firm of retired law enforcement officers has been helping bring down the backlog.
Payne said her next “Women on Target” training class will be held at the Ben Clark Training Center in Riverside on February 24.
For more information on concealed weapon permits, click here.
Northbound lanes of Harrison & Grapefruit were closed for over an hour but are back open.
Noticias en español: Telemundo 15