VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — While lawmakers are working to compromise on nationwide gun reform, one man is working to educate gun owners here in Hampton Roads.
We first told you about Joel Jones when 13News Now took a look at why young people are turning towards guns and gangs.
The former gang member turned U.S. Navy veteran is teaching people the law and how to safely use a firearm. He said with more education, comes more responsibility by gun owners.
Walking into Jones' class at Superior Pawn and Gun, you'll hear the words "clear," "extend," and "hot" along with gunshots. He’s teaching men and women how to safely use their guns.
Jones, along with the national African American Gun Association, has a bigger goal in mind.
"Introducing firearms to the Black community and not just introducing firearms, but introducing responsible gun ownership with proper training and education," he said.
Jones said a lot of young gun owners don’t understand the gravity of the machine they’re holding in their hands and he wants to change that.
"I’m trying to get them in, not to teach them how to fire at someone, but to educate them," Jones said.
He said he believes changing their view of a gun from a toy to a weapon could change a lot of violent behavior in young adults.
Throughout the class, self-defense was a major theme.
Sharon Gorham lives in Portsmouth and she said she originally bought her gun for protection because of rising crime happening around her.
"I’ve had it for three years and I didn’t… I was afraid of it," she said.
Rebecca Lira said she joined the class to learn the ins and outs of her gun and to make sure she is prepared if she ever needs to use it to protect herself and others.
"I definitely want to carry my gun with the concealed carry and seems like a lot of times you end up needing it these days," Lira said.
Jones said taking into account all of the rising crime in Hampton Roads and mass shootings across the country, he wants his class to feel confident.
"They see this violence, they see a lot of crime, so especially our single mothers, single ladies, who are going into these areas, they want to feel protected. They want to feel safe, so they come and get the training," Jones said.
Jones said the more confident you are and the more you respect your firearm, the less you’ll hesitate in a situation that could be the difference between life and death.
On the flip side, if you don’t want to use a gun or have one in your home, Portsmouth leaders are hosting a gun buy-back event on June 25. The goal of the event is to reduce the number of guns sold illegally and prevent stolen firearms from being used for violence.
“Whether it’s a rifle, a handgun, whatever kind of condition it’s in: they’ll get something in return," Ron Taylor said, president of the Hampton Roads Black Caucus, which is helping lead the event.