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Experts urge gun safety as carry permit applications soar following shooting
Gun rights issues likely to come up during legislative session
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A rack of shotguns for sale is on display inside The Foxhole Gun & Archery business in Gainesville.

Gun safety tips

  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded. And remember, simply removing the magazine from a pistol does not unload it; there may still be a round in the chamber.
  • Never point even an unloaded weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy or anyone.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Also, be aware that bullets may ricochet off of a hard target and go in unexpected directions.

Source: GeorgiaCarry.org

Soaring gun sales and applications for carry permits following the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last month could mean many more people are carrying around guns for the first time.

With fears for personal safety and the possibility of a crackdown in gun laws, merchandise has flown off the shelves at local gun shops, and applications in Hall County for the Georgia Weapons Carry License increased in the first three weeks of December — from 26 in 2011 to 190 in 2012.

Some worry that puts more people on the streets who don’t know how to use the weapons.

“I don’t recommend anybody go buy a gun if they’re not familiar with it and don’t know what to do, but then again I don’t want the state to go in and mandate you take training to get a license,” said Jerry Henry, president of GeorgiaCarry.org, a gun rights organization.

Georgia law does not require training to obtain a carry permit, just a clean background check.

Henry said he believes that’s the way it should be, with safety training based on personal preference, not legislative mandates.

“We are for training, but for the kind of training you think you need,” he said.

Mike Bain, a former law enforcement officer and certified instructor with Defensive Specialities, specializes in working with new shooters.

He isn’t so sure about Georgia’s laws.

“It scares me sometimes that Georgia does not require an assessment for a permit,” he said.

He said National Rifle Association-approved courses like the ones he offers would be a good way to meet training needs.

“People should understand not just basic safety but liability issues,” he said. “Once a bullet leaves your gun, it is your responsibility until it stops.”

Members of the Hall County legislative delegation have said gun rights issues are likely to come up during the session that starts Jan. 14. But most have focused more on the need for increased mental health services to avoid tragedies like the one in Connecticut that killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“It’s not the weapon that kills someone; it’s the person that kills someone,” Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said following the shooting.

Georgia law does preclude carrying weapons in certain places, including churches, government buildings, public schools and colleges and some private businesses, at the discretion of the business owner.

Jon Lipscomb, owner of Foxhole Gun and Archery on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, said that regardless of a clean background check, he exercises some discretion when selling merchandise.

“If someone seemed upset, I would refuse them business,” he said. “You can easily understand someone’s demeanor, mentally.”

Lipscomb said another thing he looks out for are “straw purchases,” or people buying guns for someone who was previously denied.

He explained home safety measures to an inquiring young father on a busy Wednesday afternoon. Options include fingerprint-activated gun safes.

But Lipscomb is matter-of-fact when it comes to his obligation.

“We’re not law enforcement, we’re salespeople,” Lipscomb said, standing behind the counter in his bare-shelved business.

Bain has some basic educational tips for new gun owners.

“Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. And always keep the gun unloaded until you’re ready to shoot,” he said.

Those three things, Bain explained, are a foolproof guarantee to avoid an accidental shooting.

In both 2011 and 2012, Hall County Sheriff’s Office reported five accidental shooting injuries. Nine accidents involving a firearm were reported in 2010, and seven in 2009. In 2008, there were four accidental shootings, one of them deadly.

Firearm safety, like other good habits, should be practiced all the time, Bain said.

Picking up a solid blue plastic gun, he said “a student should treat this like a loaded firearm.” An index finger and thumb, he said, can be treated as deadly force.

Along those lines, Henry said distinguishing a rifleman from a novice is easy.

“I’ve determined that (with) politicians who get their picture taken with guns, one can always tell who handles a gun in their daily life and who doesn’t,” he said. “The ones that don’t will have their finger on the trigger every time.”

Henry’s advice beyond the basic principles was to buy the right type of gun.

“Practice with a similar gun before you buy it,” Henry said. “Sometimes people get something that’s too big. Guns come in different sizes and calibers.”

Bain agreed, saying ranges often let shooters try different types of guns.

For Henry, safety really boils down to one appendage.

“Your finger,” he said. “Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.”

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