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Guns popular in county, state

The Morgan County pistol permit office is a busy place.

Emotions are mixed about the amount of people getting permits, but Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin says it is an asset to the county.

“I have no problem whatsoever with gun carry as long as it’s law abiding citizens,” Franklin said. “I am a big second amendment proponent, and I feel people should be able to protect themselves and their family. Armed citizens are the only form of protection for soft targets, but most of those are gun-free zones.”

Franklin said she had seen an increase in pistol permits at key times such as after the Sandy Hook school shooting, but most of the change has been in who is getting a permit.

“I don’t know if I have more women talk to be about gun control because I’m a woman, but I have a lot of women asking about gun safety,” Franklin said. “I’ve noticed an increase in females in line for a permit over the past few years. Most of our numbers have held steady despite the multi-year permits. Who is getting permits has changed, and I think it’s because of the unpredictability of these acts of violence. People feel the need to protect themselves. Alabamians just own guns.”

The sheriff’s department and the Hartselle Police Department both offer gun safety classes for the public. HPD’s Lt. Linda Fox said Hartselle’s gun safety courses are very popular.

“We have about 10 people a week calling us to ask when our next class will be,” Fox said. “We literally can’t book classes fast enough for everyone that wants to participate, but that’s what our Special Services and Training Facility is for. We want to help out our community with training opportunities and bring citizens into our world of law enforcement. Since this facility was established a few years ago, we have already had over 350 attendees to classes, programs and more.”

Franklin said she teaches ladies handgun classes as well as numerous other gun safety classes each year. Most of her classes are between an hour and a half and two hours long, some of which include firing range practice.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department has an entire office devoted to pistol permits. They issue between 40 and 50 permits each day. Office clerk Selina Childers said they don’t have a way of keeping track of how many new permits they issue versus renewed permits, but several new gun owners come in each day.

“We see a lot of new gun owners getting their first pistol permit,” Childers said. “We don’t really have a way of differentiating first time permit holders from renewals, but we’ve seen more new permits in the office in recent years.”

Franklin said she is uncomfortable with one part of the gun availability laws.

“We don’t have much access to mental health records, so I wish there was a way for us to access those more before we issue permits,” Franklin said. “I don’t know how that would be changed, but I know most people feel uneasy knowing that mentally unstable people can own a gun and get a pistol permit as long as they don’t have any prior convictions. There’s a large gap there, but I feel like the rest of the gun availability laws are fair and safe.”

Franklin said she feels comfortable with open and concealed carry by law-abiding citizens.

“The law abiding citizens are not the people we generally have to worry about because they want to abide by the law,” Franklin said. “Someone who intends to harm others is not going to be stopped by a law or a sign forbidding guns. If you think about the reasoning behind open and concealed carry laws we have now, they make sense. People can open carry in Alabama without a pistol permit because people can see their weapon and make a judgment call as to what they want to do. Concealed carry requires a permit, so those people have been screened as to whether or not they are fit to carry a gun.”

Franklin said she feels comfortable with the department’s ability to make a good assessment whether or not a person is entitled by law to have a permit.

“I feel safer knowing many of Morgan County’s law abiding citizens are gun owners,” Franklin said. “I feel like they are the only protection some soft targets will see, and I think it’s unreasonable that some places won’t allow guns but still don’t have any sort of armed security. That’s where these gunmen are targeting. They aren’t going to the places with guns, and who knows what the difference might have been if someone could have been armed to defend themselves and everyone else.”