As heard on Wisconsin Public Radio:

The number of Wisconsinites applying for permits to carry concealed firearms is double what it was last year. Though most are renewing their licenses, concealed carry is becoming more popular overall.

This year nearly 68,000 applications to carry concealed guns have been processed by the state Department of Justice, well beyond what was seen this time last year. Most of that increase comes from citizens renewing their concealed carry licenses, which must be done every five years.

The state law allowing concealed carry passed in 2011. But more than 24,000 new applications have been approved in 2017, which is close to surpassing previous year totals.

Dan Marcon of Marcon Shooting in Lake Hallie said he’s seeing the growing popularity of concealed carry at his range and training facility as people from all walks of life sign up to learn about handling pistols and following concealed carry laws.

“It’s lawyers, it’s doctors, it’s teachers, it’s professors, it’s housewives, it’s soccer moms, it’s construction workers, it’s everybody,” Marcon said.

While generally popular among gun owners, some feel Wisconsin’s concealed carry law is too restrictive.

In March, state Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, and state Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, introduced a bill proposing what is called constitutional carry, which would allow residents to carry concealed firearms without training or state permits. In a statement Felzkowski said it would free up law abiding gun owners.

“Under this bill, if you are legally allowed to own a handgun, you can carry it concealed — no license, no fees, no government hoops to jump through,” Felzkowski said.

The constitutional carry bill hasn’t gone very far in the state Legislature. It was previously introduced in the 2013-2014 legislative session but didn’t pass. Even for some gun rights proponents, letting people carry concealed weapons without any training goes too far.

Marcon said he supports the idea of constitutional carry but still thinks there should be training involved.

“Where we sit, if you want to come and sit with us for a 12-hour shift, it would make you rethink that situation a little more. It’s pretty crazy,” Marcon said.

Wisconsin’s current concealed carry law does require training unless a person has completed a hunter safety program or served in the military.

Concealed carry in Wisconsin has been controversial since it became law in 2011. Many opponents have said the state would see more shootings and other violent crimes and argue the law is less than transparent because a provision blocks them from knowing whether a criminal suspect has a permit.

DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said there were 331,323 concealed carry permit holders as of mid-August.

Marc-On Shooting features an indoor firing range, pro shop, training center and complete gunsmithing services. Marcon Shooting is west central Wisconsin’s largest and most exciting shooting sports facility.