More people in Tennessee may be carrying guns than you think

More people in Tennessee may be carrying guns than you think

Updated:
In a Target, Jesse Denton made a conscious effort to hide the handgun at his waist. In a Target, Jesse Denton made a conscious effort to hide the handgun at his waist.
Emily Ciaravino conceals her gun under her shirt with the use of a belly band. Emily Ciaravino conceals her gun under her shirt with the use of a belly band.
Along with this pink gun, Ciaravino has types to fit every occasion Along with this pink gun, Ciaravino has types to fit every occasion

By HANA KIM
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Currently in Tennessee, more than 350,000 people have a valid carry permit for a handgun.

Knox County is second behind Shelby County in Tennessee for the most people carrying a handgun.

"I've got three guns," said Jesse Denton, a 25-year-old paramedic. When he's not at work Denton carries a concealed handgun most of the time, even to church.

"Look at the history we have, a church shooting in Knoxville. People will target big groups," Denton said. But he believes there should be limits.

For instance, he doesn't support guns in bars. "I'm definitely pro-gun, but you have to use common sense. It's like gas around a fire," Denton said. "It's not a good combo."

Denton has never been victimized, but he says there's always that chance. "There are some weird people out there. I wouldn't say it's fear because I'm not scared. I don't want to be a victim," he said.

He also says threats are his main reason for carrying a handgun, but he admits his love for guns also beats the hassle. "I look toward the front door because any place that has a restriction has to have a very prominent sign," he said.

There was a prominent no guns allowed sign at a TVA Credit Union in West Knoxville, but most places Denton goes have no restrictions. 

6 News followed Denton into a Target in West Knoxville, where he made a conscious effort to hide his handgun. Instead of bending, he squatted to pick up an item on a bottom shelf so his gun was less obvious. He says it's on his mind constantly.

The same goes for self defense instructor Emily Ciaravino. "I work out with it," she said.

Ciaravino showed 6 News a small gun she had concealed under her shirt with the use of a belly band.

Ciaravino says like most women, she loves to accessorize. "I love to wear makeup, I love to dress up, but I do it in a way I can carry my gun," she said.

Don't let Ciaravino's pink gun fool you, she's got types to fit every occasion. She also has a special purse that has a hidden pouch to hide her gun. "So I can easily take it out and then engage," she said.

Originally from New York, Ciaravino says she moved to Tennessee not long ago and the gun culture here is perfect for her lifestyle.

As a state senator and now the mayor of Knox County, Tim Burchett has always been vocal about his support for guns. "We live in a different world," he said. "I've experienced death threats in Nashville. I've had security follow me and we had incidents here."

6 News asked Burchett if he was carrying a handgun during our interview. "I only carry when it's legal and appropriate," he said.

Others have no problem wearing their handguns out in the open. The owners of Vol Market 3 on Western Avenue dish out food and cash checks with guns on their hips.

"It's a deterrent pretty much. We want to protect what is ours," said owner Richard Nichols.

If you think the guns would scare away customers, it's not so. The popular deli is packed with long lines to the door on most days. 

Gun carriers who spoke to 6 News say they never want to draw their gun on anyone. "I'm going to give them my money and if they walk away great," Jesse Denton said.

He and others say they would only use their guns in a life or death situation and having a carry permit is not a license to pull the trigger.

In Tennessee you can carry your handgun out in the open and concealed. However, Knoxville police encourage civilians to hide their guns if they are leaving their home or private business and going to a public place.

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Shelby County has 45,495 people with a handgun carry permit.

Knox County comes in at 23,139 people. Davidson County is third with 22,129. 

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