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Gun instructor could get permit back after threatening to 'start killing people'

The chief executive of a Tennessee firearms instruction school, who said in an online video that he was “going to start killing people” if gun control laws were tightened, could get his carry permit back.

A judge in Benton County ruled on April 3 that the suspension of James Yeager’s handgun carry permit was not supported by the evidence against him.

Yeager lost his handgun carry permit on Jan. 10 after posting a video on Youtube in which he threatened violent action if President Obama pursued executive actions that would tighten restrictions on gun ownership. His original video was later replaced with an edited version that omits the remarks about “killing people.”

“I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you’re going to do, load your damn mags, make sure your rifle’s clean, pack a backpack with some food in it, and get ready to fight,” Yeager said in the original Jan. 9 video, now archived on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.”

A more sedate Yeager, seated alongside his attorney, tempered his statements in a video posted days later, on Jan. 11.

“I do not in any way advocate the overthrowing of the United States government,” Yeager said. “I was very angry when I made that video.”

Yeager filed a petition to have his handgun permit returned on Feb. 1.

There are 412,465 handgun permit holders in Tennessee, according to the state department of safety. A total of 1,389 permits were suspended or revoked in 2012.

The state attorney general has 10 days to appeal the Benton County court’s ruling. No decision to appeal had been made on Tuesday.

Based in Camden, Tenn., Yeager’s company, Tactical Response, offers courses in pistol, rifle, and shotgun shooting, including a two-day handgun course taught by him.

Some of Yeager’s own qualifications as a gun instructor have come into question since his Youtube video. The man, who has appeared on the Discovery Channel show “One Man Army” and National Geographic’s “Snipers, Inc.,” claims in his biography on his personal website Yeager’s Corner that he is a “TN Department of Safety Certified Firearms Instructor,” among other credentials including “knife defense instructor” and “chemical weapons instructor.”

But Yeager is not a certified as a firearms instructor by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Communications Director Jennifer Donnals said in an email. “Also, Tactical Response is not a certified school for this department,” Donnals said.

“What is listed on my website is my training history, and it is a catalog of all the certifications and qualifications I’ve had at one point in time,” Yeager told NBC News on Tuesday. “I am not currently certified by the state of Tennessee to teach carry permit classes, but I have been in the past.”

Yeager’s website also details years working in law enforcement and as a private security contractor. He worked as chief of police in the town of Big Sandy, Tenn., from 1998 to 2000, and a deputy at the Benton County sheriff’s office from 2000 to 2002, according to the site. He also served with a private security detail in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 with Edinburgh Risk and Security Management.

Yeager lost the position of police chief in Big Sandy after a new mayor was elected, said city recorder Debbie Wright, who described Yeager as “very ambitious” for the town with a population of 539.

“He did a very extensive volunteer program, a ride-along type program, and a few people had problems with that,” Wright said.

When a new mayor came in, Yeager was out, according to Wright.

“They had different ideas about how the police department should be run,” Wright said.

Yeager ran for Benton County sheriff in 2006 against Tony King, who still holds office in the county with 16,500 people.

King said he received an email from the Department of Homeland Security informing him that Yeager’s permit had been revoked. Yeager’s video “probably drew more attention than he thought it would,” King said. “I think probably he let his temper get carried away with him.”

Yeager has backed off his initial statements, saying he is not planning on shooting anyone in a January interview – but he has also made it clear that he thinks that violence would be appropriate to protect certain 2nd Amendment rights.

“It will be time to shoot people when the Constitution is set on fire,” Yeager told local NBC affiliate WSMV in January. “If somebody comes to take my guns, I will shoot them.”