ERWIN — René Keplinger, owner of the All American Handgun School in Erwin, has seen a number of folks seeking to acquire their handgun carry permit come through her doors since she became a certified instructor a little more than five years ago.
With demand for the Erwin native’s handgun permit and self-defense classes on the rise, she is set next month to provide a select group of people with an opportunity that’s a little more difficult for them to come by.
On March 16, Keplinger will instruct a handgun permit class specifically for hearing impaired people wanting to obtain their carry permits.
Keplinger said this will not mark the first time she has had deaf students come through her class, as she has had two such students since becoming a certified instructor, but this will be the first time an entire class has been devoted to the hearing impaired.
“At the end of the day, it makes me sleep better at night knowing there are people out there who can protect themselves,” she said.
Keplinger said the idea for the class came about after receiving requests and a discussion with nearly lifelong friend Libby Tipton, an interpreter at East Tennessee State University who served as an interpreter for Keplinger’s first deaf student.
“I talked to Libby and said ‘Let’s see how many we can get and let’s do as many as we can at one
time,’ ” Keplinger said.
Tipton, who works with the hearing impaired, spread the word about the class and it was advertised on Facebook. Keplinger said she tries to limit her classes to 20 students to ensure each student receives the necessary focus. She said sign-up for the March 16 course is approaching the limit, with some students coming from as far away as Knoxville. Keplinger said she may begin holding classes for the deaf at least twice a year due to the response.
“As to having a group together, I don’t think that’s ever been done and that is partially thanks to Facebook and the fact that Libby knows so many and works with so many deaf people,” Keplinger said. “There’s a demand right now, there’s so many people that want their permits that there’s a demand, so why not?”
Keplinger admits there will be challenges to instructing the course. She said instructional videos typically used in her permit classes are without closed captioning. She also said she is still considering ways to communicate on the firing range, such as through the use of signage. Still, Keplinger said she wants to ensure that anyone wanting to protect himself or herself has the ability to do so.
“If you think about not being able to hear somebody sneak up on you, the deaf definitely need to have the right to carry,” Keplinger said. “As Libby was telling me the other day, they do everything else we do except hear, and one of the ladies sent me a thing on Facebook, and she said ‘I want to do what everybody else does. I want to be able to protect myself.’ And that’s the whole reason I do this. At the end of the day, you see people who have more confidence when they walk away from the range, they know they can protect themselves.”
Since the class was announced, Keplinger said a number of potential students have sent questions about the class to her Facebook page and others have double-checked to make sure they are enrolled.
“It’s really neat to see the interest out there,” she said.
And it seems Keplinger is as anxious for March 16 to arrive as some of the students.
“This is going to be fun,” she said. “A day to remember, no doubt.”
For more information on the class or All American Handgun School, call Keplinger at 948-8053.