Each aisle she turned down, he seemed to be there. By the shelves of Cap’n Crunch and Cocoa Puffs. By the cans of chicken noodle soup and pinto beans and pasta sauce.
By the rows of fresh lettuce.
And when Jacee Cole went to check out, he was there by the cash registers, too.
She didn’t know who he was or what he wanted or why he was watching her. “I think I’m being followed,” she whispered to her mom on her phone.
“I don’t know what to do.”
As Cole pulled out of the grocery store parking lot, the man appeared again in her rearview mirror and tailed her into her Magna neighborhood. She called police, but he drove off before officers arrived. She worried he would come back.
If he did, Cole wanted to be able to defend herself.
So last year, shortly after the state green-lighted Utahns as young as 18 to get concealed carry permits, she completed the training and bought a 9mm handgun. She was 19. “A lot of people told me I was too young for it,” said Cole, now 20. “But I feel safer.”
She’s not the only one. Since the reduced age limit took effect on May 9, the state has issued more than 1,400 permits for 18- to 20-year-olds to carry concealed firearms. That includes 107 in January alone.
And in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida last month, gun-rights advocates anticipate the numbers will go up even more as young adults search for a sense of security in a handgun.