Does teaching gun safety help stop accidents? More Ohio police officers say yes.

By Chad D. Baus

To hear the media darlings at the anti-gun Joyce Foundation-funded International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) tell it, guns - the tools some criminals use - are responsible for violence and accidental deaths in America, rather than the criminal or the ignorant. And every police office thinks so.

Or do they?

In the wake of two tragic accidents in Ohio involving small children and guns, several state media outlets have addressed the issue of kids and guns. In addition to contacting Buckeye Firearms Association, several reporters interviewed area law enforcement officers. Their comments put the anti-gun front group known as the IACP to shame.

First, from the Middletown News-Journal:

Jake Varley, of Trenton, learned to shoot a gun when he was 8 years old. Now 11, Jake has his own .22 rifle, and is pursuing a Boy Scout badge in rifle shooting.

In the wake of two recent accidental shooting deaths in the region — involving a 5-year-old Hamilton boy and a 3-year-old Vandalia boy — it may seem counter-intuitive to some people that exposing a child to guns may actually be the way to prevent such accidents.

But that's the point of view advanced by Oxford police Sgt. Jon Varley, who takes his family’s gun education very seriously.

"There are guns in the house," Varley said. "I have approximately 12 handguns and six rifles. I think (my family) ought to know how they work. By showing them, it takes the mystique out of it, and the curiosity level goes down."

..."By educating everybody, they get a healthy respect (of guns) rather than fearing them," he said. Varley takes his family out to a friend's farm in Indiana and teaches them about guns one on one. His son Nate, 8, is just now learning how to shoot.

Beth Varley also is learning. She recently took the Hamilton Ladies Only Concealed Carry Weapon Class.

"They kind of scared me (at first), but he took me out and showed me," she said. "We have guns in the house, and I need to know how to use them. (Jon is) not always here with me."

But Jon's family is unique, right? There aren't any other law enforcement officers who would support this type of education for children over the types the IACP might employ, right?

Wrong.

From the Hamilton Journal-News:

When it comes to gun safety and kids, there is serious disagreement — some people advocate letting children become comfortable with firearms, while others say to keep them far away.

"It"s about education and parents instructing kids properly," said Hamilton police Detective Dan Stevenson. "Take the mystique away from them." In his view, exposing children to firearms and firearm safety early on could save their lives.

Hamilton police officer Bob Gentry, who teaches local safety classes, agrees. "Take your family out and let them see how it works," he said.

...Juvenile detectives like [Middletown police Detective Janice Jones] and Middletown police Detective Fred Shuemake agree children alone with guns is a recipe for disaster.

"It is a liability all the time," said Shuemake who, like Jones, taught his four children gun safety.

The Middletown story notes that nationwide, there were 154 unintentional firearm deaths among "children" 19 years old and younger in 2006, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Five were in Ohio.

The Hamilton story notes that "just in case children do find a gun in the home, they can learn what to do with the Eddie Eagle GunSafe program, taught by Officer Gentry as part of Safety Town and in Hamilton City Schools.

"It's a really good program as far as youngings go," Gentry said. He added that the materials are supplied by the National Rifle Association.

"Stop, do not touch, leave the area, tell an adult" is the mantra of Eddie the Eagle, Gentry told the newspaper. Classes such as these can save the lives of those such as Zachariah Nesbitt, a 5-year-old Hamilton boy who police said died last month after shooting himself with his father's gun.

So not only are there police officers who teach their own children about gun safety, they are also willing to volunteer their time to teach others' children what to do if they find a gun. Try finding that bit of truth on the IACP website.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms safety and concealed carry instructor.

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