David Ballinger is a man who knows how to protect himself, either with his hands or a firearm.
The 56-year-old is an accomplished martial artist who more than two decades ago started shooting guns. He never carried a firearm on his person because he didn’t have a concealed carry permit. A few weeks ago, Ballinger decided to qualify for the certification that is required by the state. The reason?
“I wanted to be self-reliant. I want to be independent and not have to depend on the police to protect myself,” he said.
The realization that age might impede his abilities to physically fight an attacker also factored into Ballinger’s decision. He has a second-degree black belt in taekwondo.
“You know, as you get older, you are less flexible,” he said.
Matthew Courtney, owner of Louisiana Shooters Unlimited in Lake Charles, organized the class that Ballinger attended.
Since 2007, Courtney has taught concealed carry permit classes at a facility south of Lake Charles Regional Airport. He said businesses has been good, especially since the number of instructors is increasing.
“The more availability of training means more people applying for permits,” Courtney said.
The American Press obtained concealed handgun permit statistics for the period of 2007 to 2012 from state police.
According to those records, the number of permits issued in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes fluctuates from year to year.
Calcasieu Parish — the most populated — saw the greatest increase in permits issued from 2008 (312 permits) to 2009 (728 permits) at 416.
From 2011 (648 permits) to 2012 (779), the parish recorded its second-biggest permit increase of 131. Beauregard Parish registered an increase with 90 permits from 2011 (116) to 2012 (205).
Courtney contends that increases began in 2009.
“Again, it is more training for instructors. That year, our company trained 40 instructors,” he said. “To date, we’ve trained thousands of instructors in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.”
Several weeks ago, Courtney hosted a group of 20 people who were being trained to be instructors.
Courtney recalled seeing firsthand how people interested in obtaining a gun permit could end up being disappointed because of the lack of instructors.
In the early part of the 2000s, Courtney knew a couple that wanted to obtain a concealed carry permit.
“The wife could not find a class. We decided to get certified as instructors ourselves then,” he said.
Ballinger, who was raised in California before moving to Louisiana, is appreciative of the instruction he was provided. He said the classes focus on Louisiana gun laws and on which states permit people to carry a concealed gun, along with teaching about situational awareness.
“Situational awareness is to be aware of your surroundings so you can avoid areas of possible danger,” Ballinger said.
He intends to carry a concealed weapon once he gets the permit. Even though he’s prepared to defend himself, Ballinger hopes his gun is never used in a life-or-death situation.
“I’m fairly level-headed. That is one of the things marital arts taught me, and that is how to handle a life-or-death situation,” he said. “I hope to God that I don’t have to use a gun but I am trained if I have to.”