Shootings heighten area security concerns

ENGLEWOOD — In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that claimed 27 lives, some are looking to law enforcement and government officials for answers. Others are educating and arming themselves for protection in increasing numbers.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has had numerous calls from concerned citizens seeking suggestions about how to feel safer, according to CCSO spokesman Bob Carpenter.

‘We know people are concerned,’ Carpenter said, recalling an incident where a man asked two different schools in Port Charlotte whether or not he could bring a gun to the school to protect his grandchildren.

‘He wanted to test to see what we would do,’ Carpenter said. ‘Five cop cars showed up. He admitted it was probably not the best course of action, but I think he was satisfied by the response.’

Steve Gardiner, who owns American Firearms Training in Englewood, said demand for classes is skyrocketing in what is typically a slow season, since the Sandy Hook shootings.

‘We usually run classes every other week,’ Gardiner said. ‘I wasn’t planning on having any classes during Christmas week. I’m booked up for the next four weeks.’

Gardiner said the increased business may be due to President Barack Obama’s speech at the Sandy Hook memorial held in Newtown, Conn., and the uncertainty surrounding gun legislation.

Demand is increasing for all classes, but the highest demand is for the basic shooting/concealed permit course and home/personal protection for advanced owners.

‘It’s all about common sense,’ Gardiner said. ‘I always stress securing your firearms in a lockable device where only you and those you trust have access while keeping them unloaded. If you must have a loaded weapon, I recommend a biometric (using fingerprints or other identifying marks) security system.’

Randy McLendon of Taking Our Country Back, an Englewood tea party group, said as tragic as events were in Newtown, ‘We have to be smart when it comes to dealing with it for the future.

‘It breaks your heart and I’m still crying about it,’ McLendon said. ‘I think we’re better to take our cues from Israel than the gun -control lobby.’

McLendon refers to a policy where teachers and school administrators in Israeli schools carry firearms to deter attacks on schoolchildren.

‘Somebody in the school office should be permitted to carry a gun ,’ McLendon said. ‘I don’t have all the answers, but we can’t ban weapons. We have to be smarter and protect our kids. It’s impossible to keep weapons out of the wrong hands.’

Joe Gruters, chairman of the Sarasota Republican Party, said everything has to be looked at, not just guns .

‘Our hearts and prayers go out to the families,’ Gruters said. ‘There can’t be a knee-jerk reaction. Everything in the culture should be addressed. We’re moving more toward a secular society, away from God. We have to ask ourselves, what is it in the culture that is producing these mass murderers.’

Rita Ferrandino, chairwoman of the Sarasota Democratic Party, said those with whom she spoke agreed there needs to be changes to existing gun -control laws.

‘People were visibly shaken, upset and very vocal about changing the gun -control laws,’ Ferrandino said. ‘They want to look at the definition of what makes an assault weapon. We need to fight for stronger gun -control laws. We need to take a stand against extremists.’

Ferrandino took issue with statements from other political groups.

‘I strongly reject statements by the tea party and GOP leaders, who are blaming teachers and the separation of church and state for the (Newtown) shootings,’ Ferrandino said.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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