MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A firearms training course is seeing more interest as a rise in gun violence and deadly mass shootings across the country is seen.
As of June 6, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office had nearly 250 concealed carry permit applications to process, compared to just under 15 as of May 16.
Former county sheriff Irwin Carmichael is the lead firearm instructor at the Martial Arts Training Institute, and he was not surprised by the sudden increase.
"A lot of people are feeling insecure and unsafe," he said, "and they are coming and taking that concealed carry class because they want to make sure they are prepared if a bad situation happens."
In North Carolina, an 8-hour firearms training course is required for those who want a concealed carry permit. You must also be at least 21 years old.
The course breaks down the fundamentals of using a gun, along with the laws people need to abide by. Carmichael encourages gun owners to take some sort of training course to learn how to properly use and store their weapons.
For the former sheriff, these classes may just be a necessity given recent events.
“You go back 30 years ago, 40 years ago, back to when I was a kid, these things didn’t happen. We didn’t have mass shootings," said Carmichael. "You didn't have people going into school, malls, movie theaters to shoot them up. Today is a different world so we have to prepare differently.”
Mary Dune is one of Carmichael's students, and she says she wants to ensure she can stand her ground.
"The world is getting rougher and rougher and I want to be able to protect my family and my property," she said.
Tired of living in fear and avoiding crowds, Dune is getting her concealed carry permit at 62 years old.
“No amusement parks, very rarely malls," Dune said, "and I haven’t been to the movie theater since 2019. I’m just mostly afraid and I don’t like to be afraid.”
For Andre Moore, taking the class is not just about protecting his family, but also about learning more about firearms.
"The best way to protect her, my family, and myself is by being educated," he said.
The turning point for him was his daughter not feeling safe in the classroom.
“She came home and didn’t want to go to school because of all the school shootings she sees on TV," he said, "and that was kind of a dark moment for us."
Some students with previous experience with guns also found value in it, deeming it a refresher course for them.
“In the class, the instruction is going over different situations and how to handle them, and even with military training, this is beneficial,” said Clyde David Kiker III.
When it comes to gun ownership, Carmichael said knowledge is power.
“You want to make sure you know the laws, the legalities, safe handling of a firearm, and that’s what this course teaches," said Carmichael.
He also supports stronger gun laws.
“We want to make sure firearms are in the right people’s hands," said Carmichael. "So these background checks I am all for.”
Kiker is also a gun owner and said he had a troubling upbringing. He also understands the need for more resources focused on mental health.
"Growing up, I had student counselors because my parents had addiction issues and things like that," he said. "Without them, I would have been in a lot more violent situations. They helped me control my temper."
Dune said she doesn’t know the type of gun she will get yet, but she does feel empowered by taking the course.
“It was kind of a no-brainer," she said. "My son and I have been talking about it for a long time."