Special Report: Alabama Arms Race

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With all the talk about school shootings and possible new gun control laws, many people are changing their minds about owning guns. So are the number of people getting permits and buying weapons going up?

Students and teachers gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

A man opens fire inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

And a former Los Angeles police officer armed and on the run.

With all these stories in the news and talks of new gun control laws in the President's Stat of the Union address, a lot of people are changing their stance on gun ownership.

"I advocate everyone having a self defense weapon in their home."

"I feel responsible knowing I own and can safely handle a gun."

"They scare me and make me nervous."

"I wanted to have self protection."

We wanted to see if all that news translates into more people getting gun permits.  Here's a look at the last three years:

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office issued 15,080 gun permits in 2010.  It went up about 6% in 2011 and it jumped up another 9% in 2012, so about 1000 more people every year get a permit.

But this January, we saw a big difference. We'll get to those numbers later in the story.

For some of these folks, this is a brand new experience, a gun safety course at the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office firing range.

"It's a lot harder than I thought."

For Carolyn Hood, it had been 15 years since she'd fired a weapon, but now she's got her own gun and permit to use it.

"We are getting ready to start our own business.  I think I did well, but will keep practicing"

For new gun owners, that's key. The Sheriff says classes like this are a must, and if you own a weapon, you better be prepared to use it.

"I've got no problem with law abiding citizens owning a gun. But on the other hand, if you can't use that gun, don't get one, because I'm going to take it from you and use it on you."

Kim Bird is an elementary school teacher and never dreamed of owning a gun until that scare over the summer.  Now she has this and a permit to use it.

"It makes me feel good and safe."

"About six months ago you hear about that shooting in Colorado and places like that, I just thought, what if I was in a situation like that."

Kyle Hendrix also didn't expect to be a gun owner years ago. But with highly publicized shootings and talks of new gun control laws, now was the time for him.

"If there's something out there, you don't worry about the price, you just buy it, especially with people worried about guns being banned."

Back to the number of people getting gun permits. With the Sandy Hook shooting in December and talk about new gun control laws in January, we wanted to see how this January compared to years past.

In January of 2011, 1,357 people in Montgomery County got a gun permit.  It went up more than 7% in 2012, but look at the jump from 2012 to 2013, the number of people getting permits soared up to 41%.

These new gun owners are happy to be part of that group.

"I feel a lot more confident now."

"I would hate to bring it out, but I would use it if I had to."

And out on the range, they're admiring their accuracy and their confidence is growing.

"What do you think about your results? Pretty good. Yeah, I think you got him."

They might not be right on target yet, but with more practice they hope to hit the bull's-eye.

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