WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Taking up arms legally is how different firearm instructors say people have been responding to not just last year’s pandemic and national racial injustice protests, but now also to D.C.’s rise in homicides.
FOX 5 sat in on part two of an area instructor’s Friday DC Concealed Carry Permit class. John Ayala, who owns ARCHANGEL Security and Training and holds a D.C. Police certification to teach this course, rents a space at the Maryland Small Arms Range in Upper Marlboro to hit the range with students.
You could see some of his students shaking as they loaded the gun and fired for the first time.
One student named Danisa Edwards told FOX 5 she did have a license in another state, but after three years of living in the District, she is now applying for a D.C. Concealed Carry Permit because she wants to make sure her family is protected.
"There’s a lot of craziness going around where I live at and like just the other night I heard gunshots right at my back door," said Edwards, "…The gunshots could’ve came in my house at any time you don’t know what’s going to happen and guns can go through houses."
Ayala told FOX 5 he’s seen an explosion of people wanting to legally carry firearms in the District, especially among women. A major law change in 2017 made it easier for people to do so.
However, Ayala says the bigger waves of applicants came more recently, especially during the pandemic and national social unrest.
Now, Ayala says it’s coming in response to the continued shootings and rise in murders after D.C. reported a 12% spike in homicides from this same time last year.
As of Friday, 149 people have been killed in the District so far in 2021.
"A lot of women … especially African American women coming to us, asking us to train them. And this is because there’s been a lot of women getting shot in D.C. We just had on yesterday down Congress. So because of that, the women feel that they have to protect themselves," said Ayala.
In addition to being a firearms instructor, Ayala is also a longtime activist whose been calling for D.C. gun violence to end.
His family was victimized by that violence when his 11-year-old grandson, Davon McNeal, was shot and killed at a Fourth of July cookout in Southeast D.C.
"The reason why I can do both of them is because I’m a true believer in if more people have firearms, that we’re going to have less crime in the D.C. area," said Ayala, who also told FOX 5 he believes, "once bad people see citizens are shooting back and protecting themselves – bad guys are going to be very cautious on trying to rob somebody."
D.C. Police have granted thousands of D.C. Concealed Carry Permits since 2017. These are the approved permit figures proved to FOX 5 on Friday:
Approved Concealed Carry Permit Stats
- 2016: 44
- 2017: 94
- 2018: 2044
- 2019: 1734
- 2020 (full year): 2207
- 2020 (YTD – January 1 – September 10): 1034
- 2021 (YTD – January 1-September 10): 2585
Of the 2,585 permit applications granted so far this year, police say a little more than half or about 52% of the concealed carry applicants approved live outside of the District.
FOX 5 asked D.C. Police whether they had any concerns with the large number of permits being applied for and granted. They did not answer – but a spokesperson did respond in a statement:
"MPD expects the public to adhere to the requirements & eligibility of concealed carry permit holders. Anyone who fails to abide by these requirements will face penalties under D.C. Official Code 7-2507.06. For more information regarding Firearms registration, please visit our website at mpdc.dc.gov."
Ayala tells FOX 5 for him, what’s most important is that there are responsible and trained gun owners.
"A lot of us are single mothers and just want to protect our house and our families," said Edwards.