Heavy rain last Thursday night didn’t keep 27 people from attending a Citizen’s Firearms Safety Class sponsored by the Upson County Sheriff’s Office. The class was held at the Sheriff’s Firing Range, located on Yatesville Highway behind Upson County Animal Control.
The Sheriff’s Office has been sponsoring similar gun classes every few months for the last year. Topics of the class included firearms laws, concealed carry permits, and handgun safety. While the class focused more on classroom topics and less on actual gun shooting, participants were able to fire several different types of handguns, and also saw a demonstration of what may be the best weapon for home defense.
Those who attended were appreciative of the information provided, especially concerning firearms laws.
“I just want to be informed of what the actual gun laws are, so that I won’t be in violation of the laws,” Teresa Giddens said. “Plus, I want to learn to shoot proficiently. I do not own a gun now, but after this class I do intend to go get a permit and at some point purchase a weapon.”
“I came here to learn the law part of gun safety – when you can use force and when you can’t,” added Phil Shook. “I have the permit, and I wanted to reinforce what I thought was true, and found out I didn’t know everything I thought I knew. So I’m glad I came.”
The two-hour class was led by Sheriff Dan Kilgore, and Sheriff’s Office Firearms Instructor Ben Cochran, with assistance from Captain Toby Hardeman and Sergeant Robert Barfield. Sheriff Kilgore led off the class talking about the Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act and urge anyone who plans on carrying a weapon to get a permit.
“In a lot of places, they’ll tell you that ‘the 2nd Amendment is my carry permit.’ In certain cases in Georgia, that’s true. But in other cases, it’s not,” Sheriff Kilgore said. “My advice to anybody who is going to carry a weapon is that they get a permit.”
To get a permit, a person needs to go to the Probate Judge’s Office with identification and proof of residency and fill out an application, then have your photograph taken. It takes one or two weeks to get your card, and it will have your photo on it. The fee is $81, but Sheriff Kilgore said the permit is good for 5 years, and is helpful in other ways.
“Having a permit kind of legitimizes everything,” Kilgore said, “plus, if you go to buy a gun, you don’t have to wait on a background check. You can show your permit and don’t have to wait to purchase a gun.”
The sheriff noted that there are places in Georgia where a gun permit is not needed.
“People may carry a gun without a permit on their property, in their home, in their motor vehicle, or in their place of business,” he said. “Long guns (rifles, shot guns, etc.) may be carried loaded without a permit if they are fully exposed. If they are concealed they must be separate from the ammunition without a permit. Handguns must be carried unloaded and in a case. If you are involved in hunting and have a valid hunting and fishing license, you do not have to have a carry permit.
“But the law can be confusing, even to law enforcement officers,” he added. “That’s why it’s my advice for everyone to get a permit. You don’t want someone making an interpretation of the law if you don’t have a permit. If you have a permit, that takes away that interpretation of the law.”
Sheriff Kilgore urged the attendees that if they choose to own a gun, that they choose carefully and get a gun that is right for them.
“Make sure you carry a gun that you’re familiar with,” he said. “I told you that I believe in responsibility. Part of that goes with you need to know what you’re carrying, you need to be familiar with it, you need to be proficient with it. It’s just like anything else you’re going to do. If you’re going to be a good baseball player, you’ve got to practice the fundamentals. If you’re going to be a good musician, you’ve got to practice the fundamentals. If you’re going to be good with a firearm, you’ve got to practice. You’ve got to know what does what.
“If you introduce a gun into a situation that could be a shoot/don’t shoot situation, and you’re not competent and not proficient with it, then you’ve probably just handed whoever your assailant is a weapon that is going to kill you, or you’re going to get somebody hurt.”
Firearms Instructor Ben Cochran talked about firearms safety and when the law says a person may fire a weapon in defense of themselves or others. He also demonstrated how a shotgun with birdshot may be the best home defense weapon. The point of the demonstration was to show how to handle an intruder threatening you without possibly hurting someone else somewhere else in the house. He had milk jugs set up as targets, with a sheet of drywall behind them and the cardboard silhouette of a person behind the drywall. He then fired a handgun using both a .357 caliber bullet and a .38 special bullet. Both bullets destroyed the jug, went through the drywall and through the cardboard silhouette behind the drywall. Then he fired the shotgun with birdshot. It also destroyed the jug, but did not penetrate through the drywall.
To find out when the Sheriff’s Department will have another gun class, call the Sheriff’s Department at 706-647-7411. You can also check the Community Calendar in The Thomaston Times, as the class will be advertised in the calendar. There is no charge for the class, but due to space limitations, reservations are required.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.