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By Raina Hanna
Published Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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From the detailed scenarios Oscar Irvin describes to his gun safety class, one might think he has fired his pistol at more than a few people. But the investigator and sergeant with the Memphis Police Department said that just isn't the case.

"I unholster my weapon a lot. We pull up to a house and you just never know. But I've never shot anyone, not in 18 years," he said.

For Irvin, a Southaven resident, opening up a gun safety school, Confidence Through Training, was the culmination of events that just seemed to fall into place.

In 2011, he had just become certified as a National Rifle Association instructor, when the state of Mississippi made some changes to its carry laws.

"When I took the NRA instruction course, I was thinking 'what can I do with this?'" Irvin said. "Then Mississippi -- which doesn't require a gun safety course to carry a firearm -- added an endorsement called 'enhanced permit' that requires a safety class."

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The enhanced permit allows Mississippi residents to carry their guns additional places, Irvin said. The endorsement was so new that within an hour of being approved to teach the class, Irvin had his first student.

"The state put my name on their website of approved instructors, and I started getting calls," he said.

The responses came in so fast that at first Irvin was teaching the class to Mississippi residents at Memphis community centers. He soon found a suitable location in Southaven.

"Most of the people that come to the class have a vast knowledge of firearms, but I tell them we move through the class at the speed of our slowest student. If that's a lady that's never picked up a gun before, that's the speed we go," he said.

Barbara and Dan Reed, along with two of Dan's FedEx co-workers and a neighbor, took Irvin's gun safety class together this month. The group of five have all had guns most their lives and currently own several.

"We didn't want to be limited in where I could carry," she said.

That was the general sentiment among the class. Jonathan Allen and John Barron, DeSoto County residents who both work at FedEx, said the endorsement they will get after completing the class will allow them to carry on a lot of federal land, including post offices and parks.

"I feel pretty secure in Southaven, so it's not just about safety," Allen said.

Tom Cusker, however, said he wants the enhanced carry permit primarily for safety as he travels to a wide variety of neighborhoods in the tri-state area.

Among the topics covered in the eight-hour course, four hours of classroom instruction and four hours at a gun range, are the state laws regarding firearms. Classroom time also covers correct terminology of gun parts, proper handling when loading, cleaning and firing, and what malfunctions can occur. Irvin often halts the lesson to answer both basic and advanced questions thoroughly.

Despite being well-established gun owners, the Reeds said they learned a lot they had not previously known as well as learning different grips for different weapons that can increase stability when shooting.

"I really enjoy teaching and meeting so many good people. I learn something in every class too," Irvin said.

Oscar Irvin's gun safety school is at 1664 Main Street in Southaven.
For more information, call (901) 314-1238.

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