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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts

Concealed Carry Instruction: Helping People Stay Safer

Posted: December 31, 2015

I remember the first time I shot a handgun. I didn’t grow up with guns the way some kids do, with families into hunting, sporting clays, targets and such. I was an adult and it was back around ’89 or ’90. I was a martial arts instructor, and still in graduate school when my friend Sergeant Ray Sollars taught me how to shoot a Dan Wesson 3″ .357/.38 special. I was hooked immediately and have been ever since. 

Over the last 25 years or so, that interest expanded to practical shooting competitions through the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). Another friend and I traveled all over Illinois and Indiana competing in IPSC matches. For me, it wasn’t about the competing as much as learning how to handle my firearm better. 

I learned a lot from the different challenges, scenarios, and arrays of targets on the different courses over the years I competed. I also had the chance to get around some top shooters. One year when I was hot and heavy into competition, I fired over 10,000 rounds. Now that was a fun summer! It also really locked in some skills. 

Later, as a police officer, I took firearms courses like 40 Hour Mandatory Firearm, Patrol Rifle 1 and 2 (AR-15) and the 44-Hour Instructor Course for Law Enforcement Personnel. These were extremely informative, and they fit in well with the other scenario-based tactical training I had been doing. 

I was glad when Illinois finally allowed Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW), because there are times when even martial arts aren’t enough. When your assailant is armed with a club, knife or gun, for instance, or when there are multiple assailants. Unfortunately, there are some real nuts out there, and they’re not all that far from home. 

The need for drugs will cause people to do almost anything. And for some reason, more and more people seem bent on killing others these days. I think it has something to do with our culture, and maybe even the amount of time some kids spend playing some of those extremely violent video games. It’s nothing to pull a trigger and wipe out hundreds of “people” in a pretty gruesome way. 

I don’t have any research to back this up, but when you look at the background history of the mass shooters in recent history, I’ll bet you that few (if any) were trained to respect firearms or others, for that matter, when they were younger. I’ll bet few (if any) grew up in a youth group at their church where they learned to love Jesus, and treat their neighbors as themselves. 

Fortunately, some kids are still getting that kind of instruction. That’s why we’re lucky to have youth leaders in our churches, and community leaders like Brad Tucker and Jack Hoffman, who have been teaching firearm safety to kids for years. 

I was happy to see CCW arrive with the IL CCL program, and am convinced that now more than ever, we need more people training, more people carrying, and more classes to help them do it safely and confidently. Some of the local CCL instructors that I’m aware of include Scott Bowyer in Hume; Travis Jones in Dennison; Tony Kispert in Paris; and John W. Van Sandt in Marshall. 

They all do a great job. I’ve personally interacted with each of them, and sent them all students. I’ll continue to, even though I’m a CCW instructor myself and am also offering classes. Here’s why. 

I’ve watched Scott Bowyer teach a class. He’s extremely knowledgable about the 2nd Amendment, the IL CCW statute and is an expert in weapon presentation. I’ve also seen Travis Jones teach. He’s former State Police, and SWAT trained. His facility is top notch and whether it’s close or long range, he can hit it, and teach it extremely well. 

I took a class from Tony Kispert and was impressed with his experience, and with how well he put everything together for students. And John W. Van Sandt over in Marshall is an extremely experienced firearms instructor who has personally taught quite a few of my friends. 

Another great resource in the area is former Paris Police Chief and Governor’s Top Twenty winner, Ron Humphrey. For 25 years, he placed in the top five among the best shooters in the state, and won the whole thing multiple times. He can shoot the eye out of a bullseye, without blinking, and has tons of experience.  

I apologize if I’ve left anyone out in the local CCW scene, but I’ve written about the instructors I know of personally. They’re all good at what they do. What makes them great is their passion to help people become safer and more proficient at firearms. They believe that well-trained CCW citizens make everyone safer in our community. 

So if you’ve been considering getting an IL CCL, and you meet the requirements listed below, you need to jump in a class somewhere this year. If you’ve been certified, you need to keep training. There’s no substitute for training, and lots of it! I hope to see you on the firing line sometime. 

Here are the requirements for CCL eligibility as listed on the Illinois State Police website at:


I am at least 21 years old.

I have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification card.

I have not been convicted or found guilty of a misdemeanor involving the threat of physical force or violence to any person within the past 5 years.

I do not have 2 or more violations related to driving while under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds within the past 5 years.

I am not subject to a pending arrest warrant, prosecution or proceeding for an offense or action that could lead to disqualification to own or possess a firearm.

I have not been in a residential or court-ordered treatment for alcoholism, alcohol detoxification, or drug treatment within the past 5 years.

You may be eligible if you satisfy the above and no objections are filed by law enforcement. (Section 15)


16 hours of Concealed Carry firearms training provided by an ISP approved Instructor. 

Electronic Copy of my training certificate(s). You will be required to upload your electronic certificate during the application process.

An Illinois State Police User ID and Password

A Valid Driver’s License or State Identification card.

A valid FOID card unless in the process of getting a valid FOID card.

A head and shoulder electronic photograph taken within the last 30 days.

Be able to provide the last ten years of residency.

Fingerprints – Electronic fingerprints will expedite your application! Specify to the Live Scan vendor that your fingerprint application is for the Concealed Carry application (ORI = IL920707Z, Purpose Code = CCW).

NOTE: Applicants will be assigned a transaction control number (TCN) at the time of fingerprinting and will be required to retain that TCN to complete the application. 

$150.00 payable with a credit card or electronic check.