LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Hundreds of your Southwest Florida neighbors are carrying concealed weapons, but they were never trained on how to use a real gun. That's what local firearms experts are telling WINK News after seeing what our undercover investigation found.
Concealed weapons permits are big business in Florida, which leads the nation in the number of people who legally carry concealed guns. Florida has issued more than a million permits and provides guidelines to get one. Those guidelines say you have to safely handle and fire a real gun with an instructor. But WINK News Call For Action found that's not always what happens.
If you want a concealed weapons permit from On-Sight Tactical Training Institute in Lee County, you can expect to fire a lot of rounds. Instructor Keith Hanson teaches a five-hour course that includes extensive gun training.
"They have to know how to load that gun safely, they have to know how to unload that gun safely, they have to know how to discharge that firearm safely, otherwise, they're gonna become a statistic," said Hanson, an NRA certified instructor.
But that's not the training you get everywhere else. WINK News Call For Action received multiple tips that the Gun School in Bonita Springs certifies people without preparing them to handle a real gun.
The school's owner, Ken Silver, says more than two thousand people have gone through his school in the last two years.
We sent three people in to the Gun School undercover to observe the class and, more importantly, the firearms training.
At On-Sight Tactical, the training takes place on a gun range, where students fire several firearms. But at the Gun School, our undercover video shows the training takes place in a conference room. Students fire two rounds at a cork board.
We asked two different experts to look at our undercover video and give us their thoughts.
"It's either an airsoft gun or a BB gun," said Hanson. "First of all we wouldn't be dishcharging a firearm inside of a building."
Buck Holly with CTG Firearms Fundamentals made a similar comment.
"It's not a firearm, it looks like some type of a toy pistol," said Holly.
Coincidentally, during our research we found an online review of the Gun School that says, "firing the BB gun at the end of class was fun."
"Absolutely nothing legitimate about that, it's not a real firearm, it's doesn't meet state statute," Hanson said.
Florida Statute 790.06, which regulates concealed weapons, says a licensed instructor must sign off that they "observed the student safely handle and discharge the firearm."
The same statute defines a firearm as "any weapon which will, is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive."
"My personal opinion on the intent of the law is not to put a toy pistol in somebody's hand and fire it in an indoor range," said Holly.
The students you see in our undercover video never load or unload the pistol. After firing two rounds, the instructor signs off that the students have received sufficient training.
"It's obvious that she's never held a pistol and she probably wasn't properly trained on how to hold a pistol," Holly said, referencing one of the students in our undercover video, "they're obviously not in this to ensure that people receive adequate training for a firearm."
"There's absolutely no regard for the students legal protection or their safety," Hanson said.
Ken Silver, owner of the Gun School, agreed to do an on camera interview with us. But once we arrived, he suddenly said he would only give us a brief, obviously prepared statement.
"Because Gun School employs the most highly qualified, highly trained, military, state licensed instructors," Silver said.
He then sat there in silence as I tried to ask him a follow up.
"You got your soundbite," Silver said.
In all we spent 97 seconds in Silver's office, which for the record, is longer than the hands-on gun training our volunteers received in his class. Now they can send in the application for a concealed weapons permit, which was notarized by the instructors at the Gun School, and receive a permit to carry a real gun in public.