ENGLEWOOD — When it comes to owning concealed-weapon permits, older Floridians had the lead in 2012.
Men and women ages 51 and older own more concealed-weapon permits than all other age groups combined, according to data from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Licensing.
There were 441,662 men and 108,245 women with concealed permits age 51 and older, versus 365,851 men and 96,525 women ages 18 to 50.
Whether or not the shootings in Newtown, Conn., or Aurora, Colo., have anything to do with the numbers, seniors are educating themselves about how to properly handle their handguns.
“If you think about it, you have a 70-year-old and they can’t compete with a 25-year-old physically,” said Dave Hebert, president of the Maple Leaf Gun Club in Port Charlotte. “If they’re alone, it’s scary for them.”
Steve Gardiner owns American Firearms Training in Englewood and teaches concealed-weapons courses.
The majority of women in his classes tend to be at least in their 50s.
“In one class, I had two 75-year-old women,” Gardiner said. “Safety is the primary reason why they come.”
Seniors represent 60 percent to 70 percent of all people who have attended Gardiner’s classes in the last two years. And in just the last few weeks, he said he’s seen those numbers climb even higher — by about 25 percent — for participation among seniors.
Mario Anglero, owner of Pinnacle Firearms Training in Port Charlotte, reports similar participation in his gunsafety courses.
The majority of his students — about 70 percent — are in their 60s and 70s.
“About 25 percent are here just for the license, and 75 percent are just looking to get a permit,” he said.
Karen Powers is a 70-year-old Englewood resident who attended Gardiner’s class in June after her daughters convinced her to take a gun-safety course. She wanted to learn the proper techniques of using a handgun and as a prerequisite for a concealed-weapons permit.
The weight and size of guns were the biggest surprise for her, Gardiner said.
“I didn’t think about how heavy guns are, especially how easy (it looks when) people in movies wield them,” she said.
Powers was raised around rifles and shotguns, but never handguns. “I recommend this to anyone,” she said about the class.
John Wasilewski, 63, and his wife Diane, 66, also took Gardiner’s course. John, a retired law enforcement officer for the New York Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, said he was taking the class as a refresher and his wife was taking it to learn how to shoot.
“A lot of people don’t know how to properly handle weapons,” John said. “There are rules and safety you have to learn. For me it was easy, and my wife caught on pretty fast.”
The course taught the basics of handling the gun and securing it properly, John said.