(WBIR) In the last 10 years, federal authorities recorded on average one mass shooting every two weeks in the United States. The FBI defines a mass shooting as having four or more victims.
Just four months ago, a gunman attacked a military recruiting center in East Tennessee and killed five service members. In October, a shooter at an Oregon community college killed 10 people.
Those cases sparked another push by President Obama for more gun control. But a vocal group of lawmakers, including in Tennessee, take the other side of that argument.
In the days following the Oregon shooting, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey publicly called for people to get their handgun carry permits.
WBIR attended a handgun carry permit class earlier this month at TAC in West Knoxville to understand what goes into the process. We then took our newly acquired skills to the Blount County Sheriff's Office firearms training simulator to see what happens when you're faced with a realistic life-threatening situation.
The class holds about a dozen people, takes eight hours, and costs $45. The class is required by the state in order to get your handgun carry permit.
"Within the past year, it has been mostly full classes. The way the economy is, the way the government is, people are afraid," said instructor Gary Nelson, a 28-year law enforcement veteran.
All of the members of the class said they signed up for the same reason: self defense.
"There's been two times that I was on church visitation that I came upon a robbery," said Jeff Parrot, a pastor from Roane County, "It was an intense situation and there again I did not have a gun. I was thankful to the Lord he protected them and myself as well."
About six of the eight hours are spent in a classroom learning gun safety, technique, and the laws on self-defense. A written test follows. The only time spent shooting on the range is to test your shooting accuracy.
While everyone in the class passed on WBIR's visit, what some people didn't realize is that you are expected to come to the class already knowing how to shoot.
"Take that basic course to get used to the weapon, then take the class to get your carry permit," Nelson suggests.
Nelson also emphasized that just because you get a permit, it doesn't mean you're ready to carry. He said everyone needs additional and frequent practice.
"Carrying a firearm is an awesome responsibility and we must always know that and take it into consideration," said Capt. Jeff Burchfield, the Blount County Sheriff's Office's lead trainer.
Burchfield put WBIR through a series of simulations he uses to train his officers. The video quality is realistic, and he modifies each situation to make it personal to the shooter.
Adrenaline and emotions flood your mind in the simulation, just like they would in a real life violent situation. That causes you to go off of instinct. In two simulations, a reporter would have gotten shot. In another, the reporter killed a civilian. It was hard to keep track of how many bullets had been fired or where they went.
"We have to account for every bullet that comes out of the muzzle of the firearm. And where it goes if it does not strike its target," Burchfield said.
"We will never rise to our level of expectation, but we will rise to our level of training. Train, train, train, practice, practice, practice. Be prepared."
Burchfield said not everyone is cut out to be a responsible gun owner.
"That's where we want them to think clearly, we want them to be smart, soundly trained persons who can do this ethically and quickly," he said.
Both instructors want every gun owner to remember: Shooting is a perishable skill.
"Me being a 28-year veteran, I can never get enough training with a weapon. The more I get, the better it is. The more training you can get before you actually carry a weapon is best," said Nelson.
"If you ever find yourself in this horrible, horrible situation, you are prepared for the worst day of your life," Burchfield said.
The handgun carry permit requires completion of a safety course and costs about $150.