HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - Gun control has been a heated topic nationally and locally in the months following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Gun sales have sky rocketed.
Now we're examining the stats to see how many people are permitted to carry in our area. Hamilton County has the highest number of handgun carry permits in our viewing area. State-wide it ranks fourth highest, which fits with population numbers. But, there's a lot to consider when you look at who's going through the permit process to legally carry, and who isn't.
"You never know what a person's got or what he's going to do so you need to be able to take care of yourself if a situation arises," Soddy-Daisy resident Darrell Clingan, permitted to carry, said.
Darrell Clingan isn't the only Soddy-Daisy resident with that opinion. In fact, numbers show it's the area with the most carry permits next to Chattanooga.
"More a country type area up in here and most of your country people grew up with guns," Clingan said.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security updated February 2013, Hamilton County has seen an increase from 15,422 to 17,508 carry permits in just the last year, with the majority living in the outlying areas, not the city.
The phone at Carter Shooting Supply in Harrison, has been ringing off the hook with people signing up for classes-- to learn to safely handle guns, and how to apply for a permit.
"Started in December, started filling up. we're booked right now until April," Carter Shooting Supply handgun instructor Kristi Manning said.
Instructor's have doubled the number of classes they offer.
"I'd say probably 40% has been new customers that's probably never owned a gun before," Manning said.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond says it's not surprising the highest concentration of permit holders live in the suburbs.
"People in the more rural settings like that, they feel like they have to have more protection because there's not as many neighbors close," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said.
Of course, these numbers show people who went through the process of getting a carry permit, not how many guns are actually being carried out there.
Sheriff Hammond says there's no way to estimate how many people are carrying guns without a permit.
He says the best way to keep guns from criminals hands is to keep yours hidden and secured.
"Most of the burglaries that occur, one of the key things they're looking for is-- is there a weapon in the house?" Sheriff Hammond said.
Sheriff Hammond pointed out that you don't have to have a permit to buy a gun and that if you trade or sell it, you don't have to have registrations. He says he expects stricter laws on that to pass in the near future.
To see the numbers of carry permits for each county in our viewing area, go here: http://www.tn.gov/safety/stats/DL_Handgun/Handgun/Current_HG_PermitHolders.pdf