People in Southeast Texas and across the country are out buying guns, and are doing so at a record clip.
While the reasons for the run on guns varies from person to person, there is one thing universal to gun buying that remains true – gun safety and making sure that each new gun owner knows exactly what they are getting into and most importantly, knows how to operate their newfound weapon of choice.
Joe Paul, a Port Arthur police officer for the past 19 years and a former Marine, has been a gun enthusiast for most of his 42 years, and with his military and law enforcement training, he knows how to correctly use a firearm. He oversees the firearms training for the Port Arthur Police Department, which includes requalification training as well, so that the officers are well-versed in using their gun, whether it’s a pistol or a rifle.
Paul also runs a business on the side that trains civilians in order to obtain a concealed carry permit, as well as provides a gun safety course that gives fundamental and crucial information as to how to properly use and care for a firearm.
“During these economic times, you’ve got a lot of first-time gun buyers buying guns to protect and defend themselves,” said Paul, who’s been running his business, F.A.S.T. Company, for the past two years. “But it’s important that people buying guns know how to use them.”
This brings up gun safety and how paramount it is for folks just learning the nuts and bolts of operating a gun, regardless of the size or type of gun it is.
“Most people buying guns (for the first time) don’t know how to work the gun, clean the gun, break down the gun,” said Paul, “and that’s one of the biggest problems I have as a police officer, is people having weapons – they’re untrained, and they bring these weapons home with kids in the house. So what I try to tell people in my classes is to educate the gun-holder and educate the family about the gun, because the most important thing is keeping the children safe.”
Sonia Bozen has seen the gun boom pop off personally as the co-owner and manager of BZ’s Gun Shop in Groves, which has been in the gun business for 37 years. Bozen, 42, said gun sales at her store have increased dramatically over the past year, and a lot of that, she said, has to do with mainly two thing – families trying to keep their homes and family safe from intruders, and because it’s an election year.
“The big thing is the start of the election year, and we had a big month last month,” said Bozen, who is no stranger to using a gun after her mother and father started the gun shop years ago and practically raised Bozen around guns.
“My distributors and I deal with some of the biggest distributors in the country. They’ve had record sales, and manufacturers, they can’t keep up with the demand,” Bozen said. “I’d say within the past year, selling guns has also gone up because of the crime, and you’ve got people stealing because the economy is so bad.The fact its 2012 is another reason for gun sales. “And the end of the world, of course,” said Bozen with a laugh.
Lisa Williams is another woman who has been around guns most of her life, and she’s the owner of a pistol and a rifle. At 51, gun safety is something she’s practiced all her life, especially when she was a young mother and the family had guns in the house.
“We always kept the guns away from the children, but they also knew about the guns and when they were little, they shot the .22,” Williams said, adding that she stressed how important it was for her kids not to touch the guns, and fortunately, her kids knew better and they didn’t have any accidents with guns.
Williams attended one of Paul’s concealed carry and safety courses a few weeks back at the behest of her sister, Judy Ferguson, 53, a firearm neophyte who had owned a gun for two years and never fired it. Williams said the class was a revelation to both women.
“What really impacted me were the laws that go into being able to carry a weapon,” said Williams, who admits there was a lot more to learn than even she anticipated. “But for anyone who’s never been around a gun, they definitely need to take a gun class, just to realize it is a weapon and you need to learn gun safety. Always treat a gun like it’s loaded; and people don’t realize that. I know people who have been shot cleaning their guns, and these people have handled guns all their lives.”
Tom Swope, an officer with the Beaumont Police Department who works at the gun range and helps train Beaumont officers, said in addition to gun safety and always keeping guns out of the reach of children, there’s the mental aspect to owning a gun and knowing when to use it.
“Having the right mindset is very important,” said Swope. “If someone in the middle of the night breaks into your house and there’s a situation where you need to use your weapon, does that person have the right mindset to point that weapon at another human being and pull the trigger? That’s something that’s very important and needs to be looked at because you don’t want the bad guy to take your weapon and use it on you.”
Williams and her sister, who according to Paul, shot better than the men at his most recent class, left with a much better understanding of when they can use their gun, how to use their gun, and just an overall better comfort level with their gun than they had before the class.
But Williams, who said she’s not sure if she wants to get her concealed carry license even though she’s qualified to do so, said the responsibility of carrying a gun is far too great to take lightly and must be taken into consideration when buying one.
“I’m not scared of guns, and I go target shooting, which is a lot of fun, but to be in a mess where somebody’s beating on your car window, that would scare me so bad I don’t even know if I would grab my gun. But after being in the gun class, you really have to think about whether or not you could shoot another human being. So carrying a gun is a major responsibility.”