Jim Blunt has taught marksmanship, gun safety, and concealed-carry classes on and off for 15 years. He has taught in Maryland, Virginia, and for the past five years in Santa Rosa Beach.
Blunt used to teach classes on an as-needed basis, then monthly. But due to increased demand, he is now teaching every other week.
In the wake of the Newtown school shooting that left 26 dead, Blunt says he believes there is a greater demand now because people are afraid the government is going to regulate the firearms industry or make it impossible to buy guns and carry them.
"Due to fear, we may see some hoarding of ammunition as people are afraid it will be restricted," he said.
Blunt doesn’t necessarily see it that way, and believes the nation will ultimately end up seeing an increase in background checks.
But that prediction has not stopped the flow of people signing up for his classes.
The faces Blunt is seeing in his classes these days has changed considerably.
"I have seen a great increase in the number of women attending the concealed-carry classes," he said, adding that females now represent almost half the class. "I don't know why. Maybe it's due to an increased awareness and they feel a need for self defense."
Blunt, a Santa Rosa Beach resident, spent 27 years in the U.S. Air Force and worked in investigations where he became familiar with various kinds of weapons. He is certified to teach by the NRA, but he makes it clear that while he is NRA certified, the classes he teaches are not NRA classes.
Every other week now he teaches in class and in the field on various private properties.
The sign-up for Blunt's conceal-carry classes are at Advanced Tactical Solutions, located in Emerald Coast Plaza on U.S. Highway 98 West in Santa Rosa Beach. Sign up may have to take place in person, however, as repeated calls to the store went unanswered.
A visit to the store's website at www.advancedtacticalsolutions.comreveals this message: "Thank you for visiting our website. Since the “Gun Scare of 2012” began, our website and our retail store have been overwhelmed by a factor of 10 times. ... The problem is our in store sales volume is preventing us from answering the phone most of the time."
During a visit to the store, onsite manager Lucas, who did not want to give his last name, confirmed a large increase in sales, with most being to people who have never owned a gun before — many of which are women.
Lucas said that most sales are of protection-type guns such as .22s and primarily .38 Specials, which both sexes are buying. And he is selling a lot of rifles, he believes, due to the public's fear of them being restricted.
Gun shows, where guns of all sizes and calibers are sold or traded, are held throughout the area on a regular basis. Bob Johnson, who answered the phone at the Panama City Fairgrounds, where a show is held every couple of months, said recent shows have drawn anywhere from 800 to a couple of thousand people attending with numbers increasing steadily.
"Ever since Obama started talking about cracking down on guns, it's been like a stimulus program for gun sellers," said Johnson.
Indeed, a show held in Panama City last weekend had a line stretching a half block longan hour after opening. A recent show in Pensacola, meanwhile, drew an estimated 5,000 people.
A schedule for upcoming area gun shows can be found online at www.floridagunshows.com.
The Walton County Sheriff's Office also teaches civilian gun safety classes. For more information on those, visit www.waltonso.org.