110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Tragedies trigger gun-safety effort
By Joe Crews
posted Aug 21, 2014 - 3:12:43pm
When three DeLand young people were killed or injured by firearms over a span of just months several years ago, officers with the DeLand Police Department were deeply affected.
“The community said somebody needs to do something,” Deputy Chief Randy Henderson said. “We agreed, but we didn’t know what to do.”
After much discussion and brainstorming, the decision was that some kind of educational program was needed, not new legislation or ordinances.
“How do you legislate personal choices, or free will?” Henderson asked. “We decided it would be best to do it through education.”
It was decided to create a video that could be shown during a presentation by an officer. But it would take money to do so, money the department didn’t readily have.
So the department applied for and received a $12,500 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Children Exposed to Violence program. The funds covered the cost of hiring a film crew to make the video, as well as some equipment the department could use to support the video presentations, Henderson said.
The result is an 8.5-minute professionally produced video titled In Your Hands: The Truth About Gun Awareness. The video was produced by a DeLand company, and You Video Productions, and was shot in various locations in and around DeLand, with local participants.
The video doesn’t praise guns or denigrate them; it simply lays out what happens after a gun is fired, Henderson said. He narrates the video.
“It’s not firearm safety,” he said. “Instead, it shows the effects of firearms, specifically what happens after a bullet leaves the weapon.”
“These are factual issues being presented,” said Lt. Ben Moon, who was filmed at the department’s gun range demonstrating some of the effects a bullet can have when it hits something. “We don’t want anyone to be scared. We want to show what can happen.”
The video is designed for middle-school children and older, including young adults in their 20s. It’s not a stand-alone video; instead, it needs to be presented by an officer who can provide context and answer questions, Henderson said.
A bullet travels at up to 750 mph, the officers said, and contrary to popular portrayals, cannot be dodged and isn’t blocked by most walls. As the video shows, interior walls are no obstacle, even for a small-caliber bullet like a .22.
Most people don’t realize how easily a gun can be fired, Moon says in the video.
“Just 40 ounces of pressure fires a gun; it’s as simple as pushing a button on a video game,” he says.
An average of eight juveniles a day are injured in gun accidents across the nation, and thousands are killed in accidental shootings each year. The video aims to help bring those numbers down, at least on a local level. It lays out three principles of gun awareness: Never carry a gun in a social situation, behave as if all guns are loaded, and, if you encounter a gun, call the police.
“We’re not trying to get ‘rats,’” Henderson said. “We just want people to be aware.”
“A gun is a tool with no mind of its own,” Police Chief Bill Ridgway says in the video. “It fires when it’s told, and hits what it’s fired at. It’s a simple machine powered only by human hands and minds.”
The video’s premiere was during the Police Department’s National Night Out anti-crime awareness event. It got “high acclaim,” Henderson and Moon said.
“We’re proud it’s made by the DeLand Police Department for our audience — people who live, work and play in DeLand,” Henderson said.
Now, the department would like to begin spreading its message to a wider audience for groups of youths and adults and, possibly, schools.
“If the message is received, people will see it’s not how much you know about the gun, it’s how you handle it,” Moon said. “If I can get one kid in DeLand to think for half a second when a gun comes out, I’ve done my job.”
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