What does it take to get a concealed carry permit?
More than 1.8 million people have concealed carry permits in Florida.
Tony McKnight, owner of Big Daddy Guns, says the ability to carry concealed, or own a gun at all, is what makes America different from other countries around the world. McKnight explains, "Basically the second amendment protects the first amendment. So if we don't have the first or the second amendment, we don't have anything. It's what the founders said. The right to keep and bear arms is the ability to make sure that the government will never oppress the people."
To exercise the right to carry a concealed weapon, means doing so legally. The process involves going through a concealed carry course with a certified instructor, like Don Daalberg. Daalberg says it's not a decision to take lightly. "Carrying a firearm is a big responsibility. It's not anybody just slapping a gun on their side thinking it's the wild west. This is for personal protection. This is for you, your family."
Concealed carry courses explain step by step where you can and cannot bring your weapon, and they vary by state.
Even with a concealed weapons license in Florida, places like schools and polling places are always off limits. When asked about why there are so many rules and off limits locations, Daalberg says, "It's not that there are so many rules. It's that there are certain ways that you responsibly should carry a firearm."
A background check considering criminal record, active warrants, citizenship status, and known mental status, are just a few factors in getting the concealed carry license, or even a gun at all. According to the FBI, more than 1.3 million requests to buy a firearm have been denied to date.
The course and the background check might get you approved to carry, but it doesn't make you a capable or comfortable shooter. McKnight compares it driving by explaining, "If I'm 15 today, and then tomorrow I turn 16 and I get to drive my car, it doesn't mean I know how to drive the car. Same thing with a gun. Just because I can get a concealed carry permit, doesn't mean I actually know how to use the weapon."
McKnight also believes there is a huge responsibility in carrying a firearm, and it involves realizing the power of the gun. He says, "If you're going to carry a firearm, you have to realize that if I shoot you, I can kill you. You have to be comfortable with that situation. If you're not comfortable shooting another human being, or you haven't come to terms with that, there's no point in you carrying a firearm, because it will do you no good."
Daalberg agrees, and tells his class, "The average person only hits one in twelve shots. The average person, if you pull out your gun and start shooting at somebody, you will only hit one in twelve. Because of the adrenaline, the shaking."
Learn to shoot classes are a great way to learn more about the weapon you might want to carry, and they're offered all over North Central Florida.
McKnight offers these classes through his gun shop and recommends them to everyone who wants to carry. He says, "It just gives them that confidence. When they're out at night, late at night, you're in the parking lot, some of the lights are busted out or whatever, it's dark. You're going to feel a little more confident, because you know hey if something does go wrong or something happens, I have the means to protect myself before the police get there. Most people don't understand, is at that yes the police are important. But basically the police arrive after something happens. So when or if something happens, it's basically up to you to take care of yourself."
Big Daddy Guns says the concealed carry classes have been growing, about 50-100 students are sign up per month.