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January 18, 2007

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Betsy Brantner Smith Survival Insights
with Betsy Brantner Smith

Guns & Kids: Feedback from the field

The response to our Newsline: "Preventing Tragedy, Cops, Kids and Guns" was off the chart. Obviously, this is one very important issue, as it should be, and we thought it would be a good idea to share some great emails we got regarding this.

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Your article on Guns & Kids in the Street Survival newsletter was excellent. I confess that when I saw the headline I was expecting something along the line of "get rid of guns, nobody but the cops should have guns and we're not sure about all of them". You wrote a great piece. It was direct, to the point, balanced, and offered simple and practical advice.

I grew up in a family where Mom and Dad both hunted. I was taught to respect the power of guns and that I was absolutely responsible for what happened, good or bad, when I had a gun in my hands. I carried that responsibility through many wonderful hunting experiences, a Navy career, and, so far, over twelve years as a cop.

Thank you again for a great article. I'd enjoy reading more of your work.

Scott Stroman, SGT
Sioux Falls, SD, Police Department

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Sgt. Smith,

I applaud your column about demystifying firearms for children. I am a retired soldier and current police officer. I have three children and one grandchild on the way. I have always taught my children as I was taught. Firearms are a tool and can be a fun hobby. I have taught them when and where to shoot and what to do if it is required to use one in self defense. They always love to shoot when we go to the range, but when we are home they couldn't care less, not even asking about them. I keep my firearms in a gun safe, regardless, but it is great to hear when someone advocates responsibility versus playing the politically correct blame game.

Ricky D. Winters
Wilson, NC

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Very poignant article, and well written.

I'm a parole officer and firearms instructor in Michigan. I have relatives - brothers and cousins - who are in the profession, the military, and some are active (addicted, actually) hunters. I forwarded your article to them, as it invited me to do so, and as another reminder from me on the subject.

With dozens of kids of various ages around, I hope our family never has to endure such a tragedy.

Thank you for the work on the article.

Robert Faulk
Parole Officer
Michigan Department of Corrections

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Howdy Sergeant Smith,

I just read your article in Street Survival Newsline #817 regarding children and firearms. I have been a deputy with the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston for almost 22 years. Most of that time we lived in a rural area... My wife always insisted on keeping a handgun as well as a long gun handy while I was at work. She is an exceptional marksman.

We had small 3 children and weapon accessibility created a problem. At a very early age I began to demystify firearms in the eyes of my young 'uns. I shot milk jugs filled with water to show them what a bullet does. I patiently answered every question that my children had and allowed them to handle my weapons if they asked to.

Our rule was never to touch any weapon unless I had handed it to them.

When they were old enough, we plinked together in our pasture. We used the "Eddie Eagle" message religiously. I knew that we were onto a successful technique when I saw my 6 year old daughter enforcing proper range discipline with my 4 year old son while playing with sticks in the front yard. She had him wearing ear protection and shooting glasses, keeping his finger off the "trigger", keeping his body behind the firing line and his "muzzle" pointed down range.

We never had any problem with the children and our weapons, and all of them grew to become skilled, safe shooters. Your article was right on the money and is the best advice regarding kids and guns that I have ever read. I look forward to your next article in Newsline.

Thank you,
J.B. Ellis
Harris County Sheriff's Office
Major Violators Unit

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Sgt. Brantner-Smith,

Great article on guns and kids. This is a message that can not be expressed enough. Thanks for putting it out to the masses in such a simple and direct way. This is the same thing I have been teaching and telling my officers for years.

Thanks again,

Kelley Fryar
Sergeant, Northside ISD Police Department
San Antonio, Texas

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Sergeant Smith,

I wanted to drop you a quick line and thank you for your recent article on duty weapon safety as it applies to children. I have to admit that I cringed when I saw the title of the article, auromatically expecting a Brady style 'guns are evil and kids must be taught to avoid them at all costs' sort of piece.

Instead, you did a wonderful job of describing how and why kids need to be taught to respect firearms as the tools they are rather then a talisman or forbidden object. Your approach is exactly how I've approached such issues with my kids, and I expect that your words are going to save lives.

Thank you again.

Tom Bates

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Betsy:

Thank you for the article on guns and family. I am a Police Officer of 20+ years with a family. One of the first things I did with my duty revolver at my first agency was to take it home and show it to my 5 year old daughter...I unloaded it, showed her how to make sure it was unloaded, and handed it to her. I was curious to find out if a little 5 year old had the ability to discharge a weapon, especially one that would be in the house.

She picked up the gun and attempted to pull the trigger with her little hand. When she could not pull the trigger, she calmly reached up with her thumb to pull the hammer back. When that did not work, due to the lack of strength, she then used BOTH thumbs to cock the gun, then pulled the trigger. She had NEVER held a gun before, but had “watched cowboys on T V do that.” They are exposed to more than we can imagine.

ALL my children go to the range as soon as allowed and learn to shoot. The mantra ALL GUNS ARE LOADED is impressed upon them at an early age.

We hear of all the accidental shootings with “unloaded guns” that are not secured. ALL children are curious. They WILL pick up a gun if they find it. If we are to make sure our kids are “gun proofed” those of us in law enforcement must expose our kids to things that many parents of their friends think are bad. Shielding your kids from the truth is not always best…

Kathy Church
Los Rios P D, Sacramento, CA

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Thanks to everyone who responded, we love to hear from our readers!

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter





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