Gun safety workshop takes deliberate approach to personal protection

Nov. 20—ANDERSON — Speakers at a weekend workshop designed to provide unbiased information on gun safety said that their message frequently gets lost in the political tempest that seemingly follows the issue of gun control everywhere.

An audience of about 40 people — nearly all of them women — crowded into the basement of Second Missionary Baptist Church in Anderson to hear a panel discuss Indiana's new permitless carry law, ideas to consider before buying a gun, and what stand-your-ground laws mean when it comes to gun ownership.

"I think we as women, we are a portion of the population that tends to be very vulnerable," said Betsy Pearson, owner of A-Town Event Production and organizer of the workshop. "As our society moves forward and as we all get a little older, we start looking around corners, and we start wondering, what can I do in order to best protect myself, my home, my family?"

Many of those in attendance were current gun owners looking for tips and other advice on finding reliable, informative shooting classes, practice ranges and other measures.

Jennifer Chamberlain attended in part, she said, to make sure she's not overlooking any potential safety issues connected with the type of gun she owns.

"There's never enough information about safety with weapons, and I see so much in the news where guns aren't being used safely," said Chamberlain, who has owned a gun for about five years. "I just wanted to brush up on any new information there might be or stuff that I might not be thinking about — keeping it in the forefront of my mind as far as gun safety goes."

William "Stan" Young, a retired assistant police chief with the Anderson Police Department, referred to guns as "necessary tools" for self-protection.

"You're adults," he told the group. "You're responsible adults. I want to give you some information on how dangerous these necessary tools are."

Recent data on accidental firearm injuries and deaths amplify Young's point. According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, nearly 500 people nationwide annually die from unintentional firearm injuries, and those injuries make up about 37% of all nonfatal gun-related injuries.

Young's son and fellow panelist, William "Boo" Young, a public information officer for the Indianapolis Metro Police Department, said gun safety is a topic that can't be over-discussed.

"We have a significant number of accidental discharges," he said. ""It's always good to talk about gun safety, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on."

The panelists also discussed alternate protective devices, including Tasers and pepper spray, noting that each individual should do earnest research and take into account a variety of factors — including daily routines and where they live — when deciding whether to purchase a weapon.

"The best way to feel safe is to be not armed first, but educated first," Pearson said. "That's what we want to put out there: Be educated first."

Another panelist, Thomas McAllister, owner of Mcat5 Gunstruction & Firearms in Anderson, said the lack of gun safety knowledge among local residents is alarming. He said even those who do careful research before choosing to purchase a firearm can find the process intimidating.

"There's a lot of information out there, and a lot of it's not right," he said. "We're just trying to help people to understand the dos and don'ts, basically. This is my first time here, but I'm happy that we're doing something like this. This needs to be done more in the community."

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.