WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB)- VFW post 2940 in West Seneca was packed Sunday morning, with Western New Yorkers eager to learn about guns.
The free safety training class was organized by EMPact America, a non-profit gun rights group. You have to take the class in order to get pistol permit in New York State.
“After Paris and San Bernardino, we have 5,000 on a wait list,” said the group’s president, David Bellavia.
Bellavia said 90 percent of people who signed up for the class cited the attacks as their reason. Before both took place, 125 people had registered for the course; that number has since grown by more than 4,000 percent.
The type of people who want to learn about guns is also changing.
“I have people who have pistol permits already, I have people who have never obtained a pistol permit and want it for the first time. And then I’ve got guys and girls that come in and just want to take a safety class,” instructor Miguel Rivera told News 4.
More women and more city residents are also registering for the course. Bellavia said it used to attract mostly suburban men.
Denise Kennedy of Orchard Park took the class for the first time, and doesn’t own gun yet.
“I’m basically taking this class just to get some information about pistols, some other additional safety tips,” she said.
Tiffany Patko took the course years ago, but never did anything with it, she said. Sunday was a chance for her refresh her knowledge.
“I’m hoping to learn how to use fire arms safely and also to know if I go to somebody’s house and they have something, be aware of what I’m experiencing instead of being afraid of it,” she told News 4.
Bellavia said local crime and the rising heroin problem is Western New York was another motivator for students.
EMPact is now having to adjust to this spike in interest, and provide more classes.
“We didn’t really prepare for 5,000 people so we’re probably going to do it in the next week and just hammering out until we get through our list,” Bellavia told News 4.