http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2008/aug/30/packing-for-their-peace-of-mind/ In Julian Piercy's mind, the small bulge in his shirt near his lower back is a way of leveling a situation. The clip that he fastens to his waist band before leaving the house isn't just another accessory. It gives him an option, he said, when all others are off the table and a life is on the line. When he feels the pressure of metal on his back, it gives him confidence that he has a chance of protecting those he cares about most. "As a parent, I am the first line of defense for my children," he said. "Not the police. Piercy, a nursing student at Olympic College, lifts his shirt to reveal a .45-caliber Springfield XD, a black semi-automatic handgun that weighs about 30 ounces when loaded. He carries constantly with a few exceptions mostly when he's on campus and prohibited from doing so. Having carried in his younger days because, frankly, he could, Piercy, 38, has once again obtained a license to carry a concealed weapon and is getting used to the feel of carrying again. "The gun doesn't make me invincible, smarter, or tougher than anyone else," he said. "It's merely there as a tool. " Spurred by fear of a violent attack or because they have actually survived one more Washingtonians are getting a concealed pistol license. The license, or CPL, allows them to travel with a hidden gun among an unknowing public. License holders jumped from about 179,000 to 258,000, 43 percent, between 2003 and 2007. The state Department of Licensing says permit applications in Kitsap County jumped from 1,587 in 2004 to 3,339 in 2007. Federal buildings, courthouses, military installations, bars, schools and airports are off limits to concealed weapons, but they are allowed in most other public areas. In fact, Washington's constitution permits its residents to "open carry" with a gun on their hip in public, but many gun owners choose to apply for the CPL and keep their weapon hidden. "Nobody knows," said Jim Wamsher, 52, of Port Orchard, who carries a Kimber 1911 on his hip. "And that's the whole idea. " Wamsher believes he has a "moral obligation" to protect his family and the community. But he acknowledges that carrying also gives him an obligation to be well-trained with his weapon. There is no training requirement to get a concealed pistol license, however. To be eligible in Washington, residents must have no felony or domestic violence misdemeanor convictions, or any warrants for their arrest. They must pass nationwide and local criminal background checks. But they don't have to state a reason for getting a license. But many who do subscribe to the mantra: "When seconds count, the police are just minutes away. " "It's like a seat belt," said April Borbon, 41, a business owner in Central Kitsap. "Hopefully I'll never need it. And if I do, it'll be a life or death situation. " Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, said those considering carrying concealed weapons are not necessarily analyzing the crime rate when they decide to apply for a license. Aggravated assaults in Kitsap County did increase from 655 to 743 between 2006 and 2007, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, but Volokh said that may not be the deciding factor for CPL holders. "I think (CPL holders) ask themselves 'What's the cost of this to me, and what's the benefit to me,'" he said. "It's very little cost to them, but they feel very comfortable with guns and carrying one gives them confidence. But do concealed pistol holders actually make society safer, a kind of armed public service? Mark Duncan, deputy police chief on Bainbridge Island, said that's a difficult question to answer. An easier question for him is whether they make society more dangerous. His answer is no. "The cases of someone misusing their concealed pistol license are virtually unheard of," he said. Dean Byrd, chief deputy with the Mason County Sheriff's Office, goes further. "Sometimes that's what people have to rely on," Byrd said of CPL holders in rural parts of the county he patrols, "because law enforcement may be a long ways away. " Duncan, who added that he carries "everywhere I go," including when he's off-duty, said those who get a concealed pistol license see themselves as having a "sacred responsibility. " Volokh said he believes there is a deterrent effect with having a population that carries concealed pistols. "Rapists aren't the most rational creatures," he begins. "But if they think, 'Maybe I'll be shot dead if I do this,' they'll probably think twice about it. " Kristen Comer, executive director for Washington Ceasefire, a gun control advocacy group, questions whether having more people carrying concealed pistols results in greater public safety. But she does concede that it might be true among weapons carriers who are trained and know the "gravity" of their undertaking. She cites a Texas law that requires concealed license holders to go through two days of training. But that training shouldn't be limited to target practice, she said. If one pulls his weapon and shoots, "You have to be willing to live with whatever consequence follows," she said. Reserving the use of a gun for life-and-death situations and spotting them is what Marcus Carter, executive officer at the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, attempts to instill in everyone he teaches. Carter's classes include instruction on the legalities of carrying. He can cite from memory numerous articles of the Constitution both the U.S. and Washington's version. Their amendments on the right to bear arms come most easily to his mind. But just as he believes in guns, he believes in gun safety. He snagged the domain name "gunsafety. org" for the club's Web site several years ago. "If you're going to carry a firearm, you have a responsibility to train with it," he said. Doug Hartley, 52, agrees. "I'm not a vigilante, and I don't want to chase down robbers," he said. "The idea is to never have to use it. " Hartley is a Bainbridge resident and high school teacher who carries away from school and belongs to the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club. "You're better off running away if you can avoid the situation. " But Hartley believes that those with CPLs who are well-trained can help keep crime rates and incidents of violence down. "I think as a whole, society is safer," he said. "If people have the weapons and use them responsibly, and the criminals know that, they'll do less of this stupid stuff. " Carter, too, sees an upswing in the numbers coming to the club for training. He points to many reasons a slumping economy or an upcoming election with fewer "pro-gun" candidates, for example that prompt people to take their Second Amendment rights more seriously. He said there's been a steady influx of women, who typically are outnumbered by their male counterparts in gun use, at the club. In Kitsap County, home to a large and often out-to-sea Naval population, those women left behind are apt to get trained with a firearm. CARRYING ON CAMPUS The most heated issue recently concerning carrying concealed weapons occurred in the Legislature this past session with the introduction of two bills. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, tried to ban guns from any campus that hosts high school students, such as at Olympic College, which hosts the Running Start program for high school juniors and seniors. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, also introduced a bill aimed at prohibiting colleges and universities from banning CPL holders from carrying on campus. There is no state law only college policy keeping weapons off campus. Olympic College, with its campuses in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Shelton, bans all weapons and explosives from being carried on campus, according to Richard MacLennan, OC's vice president of student services. Roach, who herself has a concealed-weapons permit, said she supports having carriers on campus because the mentality of a shooter "is to hone in on places that people are the most defenseless. " "The reality is these scenarios are never good ones," she said. "But potentially we have 258,000 people out there who can save people from dying. The issue is how many lives can be saved. Two common factors triggered the CPL holders interviewed for this story to get their licenses: they had familiarity with firearms, either from their upbringing or in their profession; or they'd either been frightened by or experienced a violent situation. South Kitsap resident Bill Williams' home had been burglarized twice before a group of crooks invaded his home and robbed him in 2000. It was "an attack on my person by some people that thought they had a right to take my car and property just because there were more of them than me," he said. "They wanted to get the easy way what I worked hard for. " That was the last straw for Williams, who now carries inside a belt or shoulder holster various guns, from a small revolver to a .45-caliber automatic colt pistol. "Mike" in North Kitsap who asked that his last name not be used because many of his relatives would disapprove of his gun ownership cites violent outbursts around the country as his rationale to carry. Mike got his concealed pistol license about four years ago and carries a .45-caliber Glock (he has a smaller 9 millimeter for when he's wearing lighter clothes or is in the company of his "anti-gun" relatives). He carried intermittently until the Virginia Tech massacre, in which 32 people died when a gunman shot up classrooms in a building and then killed himself. "It was then that I realized that you can't count on help being there when you need it. You're only guaranteed a chance when you are able to defend yourself," he said.