HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – More people in the Tampa Bay area are turning to firearms for self-defense after recent shootings. This, just after Sunday night, when family and friends held a vigil at the yoga studio in Tallahassee. A gunman opened fire Friday, leaving two women dead.
ABC Action News wanted to get a better idea of what’s prompting people to go and learn how to shoot a gun and get their concealed carry permit. Why now?
We sat down with a mother of three, who shared her personal story and explained why she never imagined she'd be in the position she is today.
You may recognize yourself in Jennifer Torres. ABC Action News caught up with her in between cleaning and loading up the car for her kids’ softball practice. Soon, she says, there will be a new trip: to a shooting range.
“I’m going to teach them properly how to shoot, teach them how to take apart the gun,” Torres said.
Her children are 8, 9 and 10 years old. Torres’ worry started with Sandy Hook and in the last couple months, turned to action. She now plans to buy a gun.
“Waning to get a permit, learning how to use it properly,” Torres said.
When asked if she ever expected to train her children on how to use a gun at their ages, she said, “not in a million years. Absolutely not.”
Torres herself grew up with a gun in the home. Her stepfather is a retired police officer in Paterson, New Jersey.
“Growing up in a household where a gun was freely in my sight, I knew not to touch it. And now teaching my kids that it’s OK and you need to know, it’s reassuring but at the same time it’s mind-blowing,” Torres said. “I never thought that, having children, at some point in their life I had to teach them how to use a gun. That’s just not normal.”
With that, tears began to well in Torres’ eyes.
“The fact that I wake up early and take my kids to school and maybe that will be the last time I kiss them goodbye. it’s scary. It’s not something that I - you know growing up, you say I want to get married and have children. Not I want to get married, have children, and pray they’ll come home safe."
Ryan Thomas, owner of Tampa Carry, says he’s seen the uptick as an instructor.
“Any time there’s an extreme act of violence, like the yoga shooting, that’s going to increase demand,” he said, challenging people not to wait until after something violent happens.
Thomas says his course focuses on situational awareness, and ways to avoid getting into a position where you even need a gun.
“We spend a lot of time talking about that and then really creating safeguards in a person’s life to again, avoid violence at all costs. And then only when we’re backed into that corner, and we have no other options, should we use a gun,” Thomas said. “We have to think about what could possibly happen, and we have to train our children and our family members to expect the unexpected.”