CLINTON, N.C. — Authorities in Sampson County say a surge in gun permit applications is a direct result of a series of armed home robberies.
During a six month period last year, 740 gun permits were issued. That is 102 more than at the same time the year before. The number of permits for concealed weapons quadrupled.
"With the home invasions being constantly in the news in our area and in other counties, people are becoming more aware," Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said.
The investigation into a series of violent home invasions that span nine counties has netted four arrests and involves every law enforcement agency in the area.
Investigators say those involved in the robberies are an armed band Honduran immigrants who have mostly targeted the Hispanic community and have been known to point guns at children.
Thornton says he does not mind people getting guns as long as they take the time to learn how to use them safely.
"I certainly encourage everyone that has one to feel like they are able to operate that thing --through training or whatever it takes -- to ensure that they use it properly," he said.
North Carolina law requires special training for people who carry concealed weapons.