Pee Dee residents rush to get firearms training | SCNow
By Jamie Rogers
Morning News Reporter
Published: February 3, 2009
JOHNSONVILLE — The Pee Dee is following a national trend showing an increase in the number of guns being sold, but area residents also are signing up in record numbers to be trained to use guns and carry them on their person.
Johnsonville Police Chief Ron Douglas, a former training officer for the Florence Police Department, said he has trained almost twice the number of people he normally trains in a six-month period. People must must pass a firearms training class to get a concealed weapons permit in South Carolina.
This year, Douglas has added extra training sessions to accommodate all his students.
“I used to train about 20 (people) a month. Now it’s over 40 a month,” Douglas said.
“It started about five or six months ago,” he said. “It was an immediate increase. There was no warning sign. We didn’t see it coming.”
The increase can be attributed in part to more reports of crime in the Pee Dee — namely, in Florence, Douglas said.
There seems to be a correlation between media reports of murders and other crimes and the amount of phone calls he gets from people seeking firearms training, he said.
“Most of my students come from the Florence area. Sadly, if there is a serious crime, I’ll get 15 or 20 calls from people wanting handgun training,” the chief said. “If you run something in the paper, chances are my phone is going to be ringing. I have my phone charged up and ready to go.”
There’s also been an increase in the number of women seeking firearms training, Douglas said.
Charisse Reichenbach is one of Douglas’ former students who said she took the training for her safety and that of her family.
She and her husband, Mike, along with their two small children, recently moved to the Pee Dee and the couple thought it wise to brush up on their training.
“With him working long hours, I am alone with the kids and we live out in the country,” Charisse Reichenbach said. “A feel a lot more comfortable than I did before.”
Even though he and his wife are very familiar with operating firearms, Mike Reichenbach said he, too, feels more comfortable knowing his wife is well-trained.
“I feel immensely better now that she’s comfortable and trained,” he said. “I also wanted to refresh my memory. Continuing education is important. No one, including me, knows everything. You never know when you are going to pick up some good advice.”
In addition to an increase in crime reports, Douglas said the new presidency is another reason for the increase training numbers.
“I started asking people, ’Why are you coming?’ They began to indicate political uncertainty,” he said. “They are concerned about whether or not they are going to lose their right to get a gun.”
Late last year, Douglas said, there was an influx of people saying they wanted to get trained before President Obama took office.
The chief said he anticipate changes in some gun laws, but nothing happens overnight and it probably won’t affect the average homeowner looking to protect himself.
“A lot of people are panicking. They are afraid they are going to take your gun away ... I think it’s an overreaction. They are afraid of the unknown,” he said. “I try to tell them the law might modify a bit, but no one can take your gun away.”
For more information about firearms training and laws, call Douglas at (843) 687-7201.