PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. (WPVI) --It happened after the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook, and again after the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, and again in the hours after the terror act in San Bernardino.
Every time a mass shooting unfolds in America, gun sales surge. December set a single-month sales record not seen in two decades. Action News caught up with some of those buying guns.
"How to protect myself kind of thing. Just go over some basic information so I'm not afraid in the future," said Julie Brodowski.
"I love the idea of being empowered," said Maureen McHugh.
For the last several weeks, a group of men and women, almost evenly split, have been spending time learning how to fire the guns that many of them admit they never thought they'd own.
"You're not trying to depend on something or someone else to be your protector. You are responsible for your protection," said the lead instructor who asked not be identified.
At night, they get classroom instruction at French Creek Outfitters in Phoenixville. They talk through the kind of scenario that brought them to this point in the first place: 'What to do in the event of an active shooter.'
They are taught to develop what's called the "defensive mindset." That means learning to live aware, alert to your surroundings at all times. But it also means being aware that the choice to buy and to carry a gun, also carries responsibility.
"And unless you're willing to take up that responsibility, then don't pick up that gun," said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan.
Hogan supports these kind of classes. He says responsible, trained gun owners can play a pivotal role in an emergency before police arrive.
"Run, hide and fight is something that we've been teaching in Chester County for the last three or four years," he said.
Run and hide being the best options and fight when neither of those is possible. That is the part the group at French Creek is learning.
One item of note is during training the students don't stand at the back of the firing range like normal. They are positioned up close to the targets to resemble real-life proximity.
"All shooting that they are going to be engaged in, in real life is going to be close rang. It's almost always going to be from me to you," said Hogan.
The students spend hours at the range firing point blank at empty targets that, in an active shooter scenario, might be firing back. They shoot around barricades, even with purses in their arms to simulate reality.
"They help you practice those things over and over and over again so in a high-stress situation you can be more prepared," said Jackie McKechnie who is an instructor with Civilian Defense Concepts.
For them, it is about preparation, and making a point.
"Being one that can perhaps look like I'm an innocent victim and surprise I'm not, I'm not a victim at all," said McHugh.
For more information:
Civilian Defense Concepts, LLC.
French Creek Outfitters
Pennsylvania Firearms Laws
New Jersey Firearms Laws
Delaware Firearms Laws