The upheaval of 2020 convinced Wade Yates that it was time to purchase his first firearm to protect himself and his three children.
He was especially concerned about some break-ins near his home in the Saragossa community.
"Nowadays you never know who is going to come up at your door and pretend like they're somebody else," he said.
Since owning a gun is diffrent from knowing how to use it, Yates signed up for a civilian firearms training course hosted by the Walker County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, Aug. 8.
Thirty-one people participated in the first firearms class to be held since the pandemic started. There was so much interest that all spots for the class, which is free, filled up shortly after it was announced and the class was split into a morning and an afternoon session to accomodate more people.
Both classes had a good mix of men and women and a range of ages.
Yates showed up that morning with all the necessary supplies, including his 9mm handgun (purchased just a week before the class), 50 rounds of ammunition, ear and eye protection and a holster.
Yates learned quite a bit about the various gun laws in effect in Alabama.
Instructors also refined his technique on the range.
"I was aiming for the head on the target. They said, 'This ain't the movies. If you want to stop them, aim for the chest,'" Yates said.
By the end of the session, he felt comfortable enough in his knowledge to pass some of it on later to his youngest, his 14-year-old son.
The Daily Mountain Eagle has previously reported that gun sales and the number of pistol permits being issued have both increased during the pandemic.
Sheriff Nick Smith recently announced that he is using discretionary funds to improve the overall appearance of the range, located near the Walker County Landfill and Walker County Humane and Adoption Center on Highway 118.
The range is currently only open to the public during firearms safety courses. Smith plans to open the range to the public on a limited basis this fall.
There would be no charge for gun owners to use the range, and the department would have a certified firearms instructor on-site.