Firearms training classes considered

Published 6:51 pm Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perception is often considered reality, and with public concernsover crime on the front burner, one alderman is doing her best tofind a way to make citizens feel like their safety is in their ownhands.

Literally, in some cases.

Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan told the Brookhaven Board ofAldermen Tuesday night that she had tabulated the concerns of herconstituents. The three that topped the list were ditches, uglylots and crime.

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“We deal with the ditches and lots through work orders, and we candeal with the crime through training citizens to use firearmscorrectly,” she said.

Sullivan cited the Castle Doctrine, which allows for a homeowner totake lethal measures against someone who is trespassing in theirhome. Sullivan said she had discussed it with Brookhaven PoliceChief Pap Henderson.

Henderson said he has two certified range officers who can helpteach citizens how to handle their guns, but his department wouldnot provide firearms or ammunition to the participants in anyclasses that might develop.

He also warned the board that some citizens do not need to bearmed.

“When that family member comes in late at night and you shoot him,he’s as dead as anyone else,” he said. “I don’t see where we’re inthat bad a need for this in the city of Brookhaven, but if you wantit we’ll do it.”

Henderson told the board they would have to decide who is allowedto take the class, adding that the range has the capacity to takeabout 20 at a time to shoot in groups of two. He said there wouldalso have to be classroom work before people would be sent to therange to fire live ammunition.

In addition, he said, background checks would need to bedone.

“We don’t want to teach crooks how to shoot guns,” Ward OneAlderman Dorsey Cameron said.

City Clerk Mike Jinks agreed.

“But they probably won’t come out to a class anyway,” hesaid.

Henderson said there would have to be a definite selection processnot only for criminal record, but for age and other qualifyingcriteria.

“We’ll be selective, and we’ll get some rules and guidelinestogether,” he said. “We’ll have to be safe with it and have acouple of classrooms to make sure you’re familiar with the gun andthe process.”

Cameron said that the familiarity with the weapon is the importantpart for any gun owner.

“If someone breaks in on you, you’re a different person than youare on the range,” he said.

Mayor Les Bumgarner told Henderson to see what kind of publicinterest there is in a gun class, and then figure out what stepsneed to be taken. Henderson said he would be happy to let Sullivanand Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes, who had asked him what kindof gun he would suggest for her to purchase, take point on theproject, as well as be his first two students.

“The point is that we’re being proactive with crime, not reactive,”Sullivan said.

That also led to a discussion of how citizens will call theiraldermen after the fact when they see a crime occur. Estes said herfirst question when she gets one of those calls is, “Did you callthe police,” and often the answer is no.

The chief was perturbed by that problem.

“You don’t want to help, but you want to criticize,” he said. “Wehad a man who saw two subjects on a street where a house wasburglarized and he didn’t call. You’ve got to call us.”

Estes told the chief that people’s concerns range from not wantingtheir name put out over the scanner to not wanting to bother thepolice. Henderson said the police department is open 24 hours for areason.

“These officers don’t have to get out of bed to go to a call, we’realready out here working our areas,” he said. “It’s not going tohurt to call us.”