Concealed-weapons permits catch on in Colo. county

Sheriff Terry Maketa of El Paso County, Colo., is seen in a "CBS Evening News" story broadcast May 27, 2012.
Sheriff Terry Maketa of El Paso County, Colo., is seen in a "CBS Evening News" story broadcast May 27, 2012.

(CBS News) The U.S. Senate has yet to act on a so-called "concealed carry reciprocity" bill, which would let people with permits to carry a concealed weapon in their home state carry that weapon into virtually any other state.

A similar bill has passed the House. Almost every state now allows the carrying of concealed weapons under certain conditions. Colorado, for example, has issued nearly 130,000 concealed handgun permits since 2003.

Robert Paulson is getting his permit to carry a concealed gun and says other seniors should do the same.

"Yeah, why not?" he asked.

Aimee Galvin is thinking about getting one now that her husband is deployed overseas.

"I just want to be prepared," she said.

Nineteen-year-old Jason Lowe plans to get his next year.

"Oh heck yeah as soon as I turn 21," he said.

All live in El Paso County, Colo., home to the most concealed carry permits in the state, 20,000 active licenses in a population of 627,000.

"I believe in it," Sheriff Terry Maketa said.

"Covert fashion": Clothes made for concealed weapons

Maketa signs an average of 85 permits per week.

"It's law-abiding citizens that are trying to carry concealed in a legal way," Maketa said.

Getting a permit in Colorado is simple. Residents must be 21, pay a fee and pass a background check. They must also take a safety class, but there is no requirement to actually fire a gun.

"I'm a small person, and I want to be able to defend myself against somebody who is three times my size," Jenny Plavney, 23, said.

Plavney got her concealed weapons permit a year ago. She keeps her 9 mm in her purse and takes it everywhere she goes.

"I feel better having one knowing that the bad guys have access to them everywhere," she said.

Forty nine states, every one except Illinois, have some form of concealed carry but not all require permits, including Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming. There is no national database on who has the weapons, something Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, thinks needs to change.

"I am willing to accept that the majority of concealed carry permit holders are law-abiding citizens," said Gross. "That's not where this debate or conversation needs to be. It needs to be on the percentage that are not."

Maketa sees no need to publish his permit files. He says in his county the system works.

"It's a powerful thing when an inmate says to you, 'You know what, I'm staying with drugs and property crimes because you never know who's got a gun in this crazy town, and they'll shoot ya,'" Maketa said.

In Colorado last year, less than 2 percent of the 19,000 permits issued were revoked. Reasons range from mental illness and driving under the influence violations to change of residence, according to the County Sheriffs of Colorado.