Friday, July 21st 2017, 10:16 am PST by Rosie Nguyen of KEZI News.
EUGENE, OREGON – Lane County is seeing a spike in people enrolling in gun training. This follows an increase in concealed handgun license (CHL) applications as well.
KEZI 9 News spoke to a man who decided to buy a gun and sign up for training this year. He asked to remain anonymous, so we’ll refer to him as John Doe. He’s lived in Eugene his entire life and said he was never around guns growing up. But now, he’s part of the growing number of people that are signing up for tactical weapons courses in Oregon.
“A lot of people seem to think that shooting sports, getting concealed handgun licensing, or getting firearms training seems to be predominantly a conservative bend. What we’re noticing right now is we’re getting a lot of first-time shooters. We’re getting a lot of people who typically were previously anti-gun actually getting into shooting,” said Donovan Beard, owner of Defensive Firearms Instruction.
Beard said he’s seen a 12 percent increase in enrollment from last year, the highest he’s ever seen in his 13 years as an instructor.
“I think a lot of it can be fear-based. I think that especially in the area of Eugene, we’re seeing a lot of property crimes and a lot of activity politically. We’re seeing a lot of increased response times by local law enforcement,” said Beard.
Response times have been increasing for Eugene Police since 2014. The average response time was 10.1 minutes three years ago. As of May 2017, the average response time is 13.9 minutes.
“I just don’t feel safe here anymore. It’s sad. This city is home. And I don’t even feel safe in my own home,” said John Doe.
John said his home near River Road was broken into last year and it took police two hours to show up after he called. He said no one was hurt that time, but that might not be the case if it were to happen again.
“They might be short-staffed or they might take forever to get there. So what do I do until then? Just sit around and wait? I got to do something. I can’t put my life in someone else’s hands,” said Doe. That prompted John to sign up for firearms training.
“I think this is kind of a cause-and-effect. I think people are getting the training to supplement and making themselves feel better or make themselves feel safer and a bit more prepared on the off-chance that they end up having to use force to defend themselves and their family,” said Beard.
The number of CHL applications have also gone up since 2014. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office said there’s been an increase of nearly 1500 applicants between 2015 and 2016. However, the state does not require any hands-on training for CHL holders.
That’s a concern for people like Penny Okamoto. She is the executive director for Ceasefire Oregon and has been fighting for gun safety legislation. “There were 49 firearms-related bills submitted this year. I’ve been doing this for 17 years. The most we ever had before that was 25.”
As far as the spike in gun training, Okamoto said, “We (Ceasefire Oregon) completely support people who are getting additional training in firearms – marksmanship, tactical training, what to do in a live fire situation, or an active shooter situation. We completely 100 percent support that and really encourage people…if you’re going to get gun, learn how to use it.”
Beard’s CHL courses are all classroom instruction. His tactical gun classes are completely hands-on. The drills that he put me through were difficult – learning ready-positions, how to correctly hold the gun, and keeping line-of-sight. But the hardest part was hitting the target. An afternoon at the range taught me that it takes a lot of practice to become familiar with a gun. Beard says it takes at least a thousand repetitions to make something a habit.
“It’s like anything else, you don’t just go play golf once a year and you can’t maintain your swing or your shot by playing once a year. It doesn’t happen. Hunters do the same thing. They go to ranges, they practice. They cite in their guns. said Paul Kemp, president of Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership.
The Oregon Health Authority stated in a 2016 report that on average, at least one Oregonian dies from a gun-related injury a day. Kemp’s family has been affected by gun-related violence multiple times. His brother-in-law was killed in the Clackamas Town Center Mall shooting in 2012.
“We have no connection with crime. Nobody’s involved in gang violence or drug trafficking. But we’ve been affected by gun violence in a number of ways…at a mall, down on campus, and through this, and then my daughter had to go through active shooter training as part of her job as a public school teacher in Portland. So three different ways and we’re just one family. You magnify that around the country, I don’t care what legislators say at the federal or state level, this affects a lot of people,” said Kemp.
When it comes to self-defense, guns are mostly used as a scare tactic. Gun Owners of America state that people only fire on their attackers eight percent of the time.
“State law does NOT require a person to even touch a gun to get a concealed handgun license. Now some counties will require people to get some firearm training, but it is not a state law. Even Texas does not recognize and will not recognize Oregon’s CHL because our standards are so low,” said Okamoto.
She also wants the state to require CHL holders to take conflict resolution training as well.
“Too many times people think ‘I’ve got a gun. It’s no problem. All I’ve got to do is show my gun.’ Actually, that’s not really how it works. And you want to be able to de-escalate a fight or some kind of conflict. You want to know how to do that first,” said Okamoto.
No matter where you stand in the debate over gun laws, nearly everyone agrees that if you own a gun, you should know how to use it properly.
“Anyone of our students could technically go out into our community and come into contact with our friends and family. If they don’t know what they’re supposed to do, what they can do, what they can’t do – as an instructor, if I don’t answer those questions or provide that information, then I feel like myself or my team could be allowing a negative situation to occur if we don’t do our jobs correctly,” said Beard.
As for John, he said “I hope I never have to use my gun. But if I do, at least I know I’ll be ready.”
There are certainly cases where people have saved lives by confronting the assailant with a handgun. However those situations are not as common as people think.
“Studies show that self-defense gun use is only successful about 1 percent of the time, and other methods actually keep you safer,” said Okamoto.
Instructors like Beard teach and urge conflict resolution before resorting to deadly force. He emphasizes that gun users should never point their weapon at anything or anyone that they are not consciously willing to destroy. More importantly, if you choose to carry a handgun – it’s more about thinking than shooting.