Mar 5, 2013 7:40 PM by David Ortiviz
As the gun debate continues across the nation, there's a unique program in Southern Colorado teaching college students how to make guns. Trinidad State Junior College has the oldest and largest gunsmith program in the nation and their graduates are in high demand.
It's a skill triggered by passion. "I love guns" said Corey Hamsmith, a student at TSJC. "This is a way to turn my passion into a career," said Danielle Shuster, another student.
About 55 students are enrolled in the gunsmithing program at Trinidad State Junior College. "We're the largest gunsmithing program in the country, we're the oldest gunsmithing program in the country," said Dave Nolan, a gunsmithing professor. Founded in 1947, there's only about ten other programs like this in the country.
There are secured vaults on campus, where they store roughly 500 guns, both new and antiques.
Students take the guns apart and put them back together. "Lot of hard work and a lot of fine detail," said Hamsmith.
The intricate work that goes into crafting and assembling just one gun can easily take 2 to 3 hundred hours, but that patience can pay-off. "There are people building firearms in the $25K, $30K, $40K, $50K, $100K level," said Nolan.
About 16 graduates last semester all found jobs in an industry they say is booming. "Our job placement rating is in the 90-percentile," said Nolan. "There are more jobs in the United States than there are students in all of the gunsmithing schools," he added.
Even with the nation in the middle of a heated debate about gun control measures, right now there's no signs of gun manufacturing leveling off. "There's a lot of people looking for firearms right now," said Hamsmith.
In fact, students are putting their skills to work even before earning a two year degree. "Word gets around and I've had coworkers and customers asking me to fix their guns already and I haven't even graduated," said Shuster.
Trinidad State Junior College says students in the program build at least two guns by the time they earn a diploma.
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