HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - In the heat of the gun control debate fueled by the recent massacre at Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, new gun permits are reaching unprecedented numbers locally.
"It's staggering," says Chief Deputy Chris Stephens of the Madison County Sheriff's Department. Stephens reports in just three days Madison County's pistol permit department has handled more than 400 new applications.
On Friday, Larry's Pistol and Pawn on North Memorial Parkway boasted a crowd of customers wrapped around the building. The sight would seem to correlate with the latest data on local gun permit numbers, but most customers we spoke with were simply buying gift certificates or purchasing Christmas gifts. Most said they were not participating in any type of social movement.
But among shoppers buying shotgun shells and such, we did find gun owners who had an opinion regarding Friday's NRA press conference. Gun owner and Larry's Pistol patron Zach Dupree sounded off on NRA's suggestion that all schools be equipped with armed guards.
"Will it happen? More than likely not," said Dupree. "I think gun control is not the answer. Take me, I'm a law-abiding citizen, I have my rights just like anyone else. I think we need more idiot control," Dupree said bluntly.
Across town at a coffee shop, we spoke with Nedra Beckard, a mother of two teenagers. She said more attention should be placed on mental health, rather than putting armed guards at each school, as the NRA proposed Friday.
"I think that is not a good idea," said Beckard. "There is just no control, I don't think we should give that kind of power and responsibility to an armed guard around young children."
Both Huntsvillians agreed, however, that no one cut-and-dry suggestion can mend all the issues surrounding recent school shootings.
"We need to keep a tighter check on the mental health status of people instead of trying to ban all firearms," said Dupree.
That sentiment was echoed by crosstown counterpart Beckard.
"We need to get to the heart of the situation is and it's not the guns," she said.