Two FBI trained firearm instructors, Lee Wooten and Barry Williams, were on hand Thursday night to answer questions about the legality of gun ownership and training tips. Sheriff Larry Amerson said it was a record-setting night in attendance for the quarterly event.
Amerson said the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office issued more than 150 concealed carry gun permits on Thursday. The sheriff said that’s how many permits on average are issued weekly for Calhoun County. Amerson attributes the spike in permit applications to the holidays and many citizens needing a permit renewal. Amerson said he also thought the school shooting in Connecticut, the shooting of Heflin Police Officer Jackie Stovall in Oxford and recent media reports on guns could be a contributing factor.
Wooten said one of the most important things for firearm owners to realize is “just because you own a gun does not mean you’re protected.”
Wooten said he believes more people are buying guns and getting permits because of the need for personal protection. He said he was happy with how many people attended the class Thursday.
“I’m impressed that people are thinking more about their personal safety now and people want to learn how to use that gun safely and protect themselves,” Wooten said.
Robyn Mayfield, 49, of Oxford said she attended the class because she became a gun owner and permit carrier the day before. Mayfield said she bought a .38 caliber pistol after she found out about a shooting in December in her hometown.
Mayfield said she understands the moral implications of owning a gun and finding herself in a situation where she needs to use it.
“When you make that kind of purchase you need to think ahead of time … if I have this am I willing to use it? I am,” Mayfield said.
Seventeen-year-old Lydia Sloan, of Piedmont, attended the session to learn about laws for when she becomes a gun owner in the future. Sloan said she’s wanted to own a gun ever since she could remember and describes herself as coming from a “gun family.”
Sloan said the shooting in Connecticut did have some bearing on her attendance.
“It definitely made me think of (owning a gun) even more, it was kind of on the back burner,” Sloan said. “But (the shooting) made it even more relevant.
Session attendees also had the option of further training at a shooting range session Saturday morning to better familiarize themselves with their gun.
David Hartley, a law enforcement officer who patrols the Talladega National Forest, said the Henry Creek Shooting Range in Heflin has not seen more attendance than usual for this time of year. January tends to be busy at the range because of hunters sighting in rifles or target shooters practicing with new Christmas guns, Hartley said by phone Friday.
Gun retailers are having trouble keeping firearms and high capacity clips in stock since December, said Andrew Molchan, director of the National Association of Federally Licensed Firearms in Florida.
“When the government starts talking about banning certain guns, people go out and buy those guns,” Molchan said.
Molchan said he’s noticed more gun owners are from America’s younger generations.
“Young people are more pro-firearms than the baby-boomer generation,” Molchan said.
He attributes the change in attitude to current videogames, television and movies.
“Young people are a bit more realisitic,” Molchan said. “They realize if you want to defend yourself you have to do it there and then.”
Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.