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Interest in gun course fills class
Sheriff's office responds to increased demand with continued training sessions
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An increased interest in handgun safety and laws means the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office will continue offering the course as long as there is a need.
The class offered this Saturday filled so quickly, organizers started taking names for a February course, sheriff’s Investigator Jim Riggs said.
Already, there are several people interested in the Feb. 2 class, and plans are to hold another in March.
Held at the Bulloch County Law Enforcement Training Center on Holland Industrial Park Road, off U.S. Highway 301 North, the Basic Civilian Handgun Course consists of about an hour’s classroom instruction, followed by active shooting at the range, Riggs said.
The course lasts from 9 a.m. to noon and costs $50. Participants need their own handgun, holster, and 100 rounds of ammunition, he said.
Ear and eye protection is provided, but participants may bring their own sunglasses.
Interest in the course increased significantly following the Newtown, Conn., shootings and subsequent discussion of gun control, Riggs said.
“We’ve had the class fill up quickly this year. We didn’t even have a February class until (Wednesday), when Saturday’s class filled up,” he said. “We didn’t want anybody left out, so we started the February class.”
As of Wednesday, there were already about eight people expressing interest in February’s class, and the classes are usually limited to about a dozen participants, he said.
“We have seen an increase in folks wanting to become more familiar with their handguns, and we will have future classes as long as we have people interested.”
Bulloch County resident Betty Chester said she has always been around guns and has owned one for quite some time. But, she plans to take the course Saturday to become more skilled and familiar with her .380-caliber automatic pistol, and is looking forward  to learning more about gun laws. She has been licensed to carry for years, she said.
“I grew up shooting BB guns and shooting squirrels around the farm,” she said. “Guns don’t scare me, but I was taught respect them. I have no qualms about using my gun.”
Riggs said the course is to educate people and the sheriff’s office is not promoting or urging people to carry firearms – unless they wish to do so.
Learning more about firearms handling, safety and laws “takes away the unknown,” he said. “No. 1 is safety, and it is better to have (a gun) and not need it than to need one and not have one.”
The course came about when Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson “saw a need in the community for educating folks about firearm safety and gun laws,” Riggs said.
Bill Pryor and his wife, Janice, both of Bellville, plan to participate in Saturday’s course.
“We purchased some handguns, and we feel if you are going to carry a gun, you need to know how to properly use them,” Bill Pryor said. “I want one for personal protection, with the way crime seems to be increasing. I’d be more comfortable in a situation if I am able to defend myself. I think everyone who is going to carry a gun has a moral obligation to learn how to use it.”
Bulloch County Probate Judge Lee DeLoach reported last week that the number of residents applying for a weapons carry permit has risen sharply, with more than twice as many applications last month as there were in December 2011.
The course is taught by Riggs, Anderson and sheriff’s Sgt. Chelsea Morgan.
Anyone interested in participating in future classes of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Basic Civilian Handgun Course should contact Riggs at (912) 764-1763.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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