Citizens learn about safety in first public firearms class
by Jim Smothers
TALLADEGA — The Talladega County Sheriff’s Department, in cooperation with Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens, held its first public firearm safety class Thursday night in Talladega. Another is planned for Feb. 7 in Sylacauga, and Chief Deputy Jimmy Kilgore said it could continue beyond that if there is interest in more offerings.

Kilgore said the department has been issuing concealed carry pistol permits in record numbers, and media reports have indicated a surge in background checks for firearms purchases for the past several months.

“We know our citizenry is becoming armed like never before,” he said.

To help citizens become more aware of basic firearms safety and better informed about gun laws, the decision was made to invite the public to a two-part class. Thursday night was strictly classroom time, with opportunities for questions. Saturday participants have an opportunity to practice shooting their handgun with instructors. For those who do not have a handgun, the Sheriff’s Department plans to have several at the range to give participants an opportunity to learn more about different types.

Giddens said there is a lot of misinformation being disseminated about gun laws, and emphasized nothing has changed.

“I’d like to ease any concerns you have that anybody’s going to take away your guns or rights,” he said. “Be at ease.”

About 30 people attended the session. Lt. Ron Smith of the Sheriff’s Department went over some of the basics of gun handling safety: always treat a gun as if it’s loaded; keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; keep your finger out of the trigger guard until the gun is on target and you’re ready to fire; be sure of your target, what’s around it and what’s beyond it.

Smith also went over a number of laws about firearms in Alabama, including transporting, storing, concealed carry, open carry and under what circumstances a person can use deadly force to defend themselves or others.

Giddens clarified some points of the laws and answered questions about the laws and the investigative process.

Alabama has passed bills called the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground. Giddens explained that, with some exceptions, if a person reasonably believes someone else is about to cause them physical harm, they have justification to defend themselves.

“It always comes down to what you reasonably believe someone is about to do,” he said.

A concealed carry permit, also called a pistol permit, is legally required for citizens to carry a loaded firearm with them in their vehicle or on their person. Applications are made at the Sheriff’s Department office, background checks of applicants are made, and an annual fee of $20 per year is charged. The fee goes into a special fund at the Sheriff’s Department and can be used for any law enforcement purpose. Kilgore said the fees are used for equipment and training, and have even been used to purchase vehicles for the department.

The state of Alabama has reciprocal agreements with a number of other states to honor each other’s pistol permits to allow permit holders to legally be able to defend themselves when they travel by car, but not all states honor Alabama’s permits. Maps were given to attendees showing the status in each state. Attendees were advised to call law enforcement agencies in states they plan to visit if they have questions. The map is accessible at www.usacarry.com.

When you consider the number of permits issued by the department, that’s easy to understand. In 2011, 4,459 pistol permits were issued. Kilgore previously said December of 2012 looked like a record month for the department, with about 500 permits issued. The total for 2012 was 5,071 pistol permits. When the total for January 2013 was tallied, the increasing upward trend was continuing, with 826 pistol permits issued for the month.

The next gun safety class will be Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at the County Annex in Sylacauga for the classroom portion. The second portion, which involves going to a shooting range, will be Feb. 9. You must attend the classroom portion before going to the range.

The classes are free, and no pre-registration is required.

Contact Jim Smothers at jsmothers@dailyhome.com.

© 2013