MANATEE — Along with classes for tapas cooking, making beaded jewelry and creating beautiful rooms, Manatee Community College plans to host a series of safety and concealed weapons training classes beginning June 19.
But the weapons classes at MCC will be discussion only. Florida law prohibits firearms on college and school campuses, law enforcement offices, courtrooms and other sensitive locations, even for those who have a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
Any handling of weapons will be off-campus.
The classes will be conducted by House Calls Firearms Training owner Joseph Naples, who has been a gun safety instructor for 17 years. The classes will be held at MCC’s Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Venice campus locations.
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Any weapons firing will be at House Calls Firearms Training sites.
“I took ideas and formulated them myself from watching other instructors who do not cover Florida firearms laws,” Naples said. “A lot of them just go over a basic four-hour safety course. I want to know that, in the back of my mind, I did everything possible to help them understand how to use (a gun), what they can and cannot carry, they should only fire if they fear for their lives and will not hurt themselves or anybody else.”
The noncredit courses are part of MCC’s Continuing and Community Education program.
“We frequently partner with companies like this, with individual instructors, or provide particular courses or subject matter if they offer something people in the community like to take,” said Kathy Walker, director of public affairs at MCC.
About 3.1 percent of Florida residents — 581,325 — have a concealed weapons permit, based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
There are 8,170 concealed weapons permit holders in Manatee County. Also, the number of new concealed weapons permits issued in Manatee County from July 2008 to May 2009 is 1,202, up from 886 from 2006-07. Likewise, gun and ammunitions sales are skyrocketing.
“It’s hard to keep ammo in stock,” said Roger McManaman of the Red Barn Gun Shop on 14th Street West in Bradenton. “People come in wanting to buy boxes and cases of ammo. This started about eight months ago.”
One must be a Florida resident with a valid driver’s license and pass a background check to obtain a gun from such a shop. If someone wants to buy a gun from a dealer and the buyer does not have a concealed weapons permit, then there is a three-day waiting period and background check before the buyer can take the gun home.
The increased demand coincides with the slumping economy, notes Terence McElroy, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“I’m not a cop, but I’m told law enforcement agencies know that when there’s a downturn in the economy, almost always there’s a corresponding increase in crime,” McElroy said. “People are out of work more, they have time on their hands, difficulty feeding their families, they’re lagging on their payments, so you see more burglaries, robberies and drug sales.”
Gene Pitts, range master at Manatee Gun and Archery Club, encourages Florida residents to exercise their right to bear arms.
“I think everybody ought to have two guns,” he said, “one for each pocket. An armed society is a polite society.”