Boone County sheriff\'s officer stresses importance of proper training.

By James A. Gillaspy
Indianapolis Star
May 28, 2001

LEBANON, Ind. -- With the midday sun boring down, Marion County probation officer Tammy Harris draws a bead. She aims for the chest. Dead center.

Even with her mark just a few feet away -- a conversational distance that characterizes most violent confrontations -- she can\'t be sure the slug will hit home.

\"Actually, I\'d probably be better off running,\" said the 27-year-old Zionsville woman.

It\'s a point of view many gun control advocates might share. But as Harris'husband explains, running isn\'t always an option.

That\'s why she and 21 other civilians signed on with Boone County Sheriff\'s Capt. Ken Campbell. They\'re the latest group to take the firing line in his Introduction to the Defensive Pistol course.

And as he studies their volley of fire against an opposing line of paper silhouettes, Campbell makes it clear that marksmanship has limited value without mindset.

\"We\'re talking about defending yourself, defending your family,\" shouts Campbell, the local SWAT commander. \"Now is not the time to relax. Now is the time to stay sharp and focused.\"

Make no mistake about it, Campbell\'s class is about shooting people. He wants shooters able to drop flesh-and-blood aggressors, not just paper torsos.

A quick grasp, smooth rise, unflinching sight picture and controlled pulls of the trigger. Bingo -- two slugs, center mass, in less than two seconds. That\'s Campbell\'s goal. To be able to kill if the situation calls for it.

\"This is an introduction to the defensive pistol,\" says Campbell, who regards the handgun as a survival tool that most folks just store in a drawer or target shoot for sport. \"You can defend yourself with it. And that\'s what this is.\"

With the support of then-Boone County Sheriff Ern Hudson, Campbell created his pistol course in 1999 after residents applying for handgun permits also sought training. To Campbell, Hudson and current Sheriff Dennis Brannon, a lack of training could mean a lack of appreciation for the awesome responsibility of handgun ownership.

And that, Campbell said, can get innocent people hurt.

\"A firearm is an inanimate object. And I\'m a firm believer that there is no inanimate object that can cause harm to anybody,\" he explains. \"It\'s the operator. So, we need to teach the operators how to have that respect.\"

Betsy Galloway, a 39-year-old emergency management consultant, shares Campbell\'s views. She thinks the best route to side arm responsibility is through training that stresses a gun\'s main purpose -- as a potentially lethal form of protection -- and the precautions necessary to ensure its proper use.

In a culture that glamorizes violence, she hopes to pass along what she learns about the deadly threat that guns pose. But more as a mother than as a consultant: She wants her 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter to benefit from her training with handguns.

\"I don\'t want them to abuse them and to think that that\'s an answer to their problem,\" said Galloway, an emergency medical technician who learned how precious life is the first time a patient died. \"I think I have to know how to be responsible about it, so I can communicate that to them.\"

When it comes to firearms in the household, the Indiana Partnership to Prevent Firearm Violence agrees.

\"In fact, it\'s best that the whole family is trained,\" said Patricia Lau, director of the campaign to reduce the rate of Hoosier injuries and deaths due to firearms.

The partnership, established by the Indiana University School of Medicine, views gun-related violence as a public health concern. And Lau said programs such as Campbell\'s are \"very important\" to the campaign.

\"Everyone in the household should be trained in how to handle and how to store a firearm,\" she said, including children. \"If they\'re not trained to handle them carefully, oftentimes there will be an unintentional shooting.\"

Proper handling, Lau said, is one of the \"pieces of knowledge that people should have when they purchase a firearm.\"

In the partnership\'s statewide survey last year, 83 percent of respondents agreed that safety training on handling and storing firearms should be required by law for all first-time gun buyers.

As part of its directive to curtail gun-related casualties, the group is trying to determine the circumstances of all such shootings. Although statistics with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Indiana to have the highest rate of gun-related deaths in the Upper Midwest, Lau said, numbers alone may be misleading.

\"Over half of the firearms-related deaths are suicide,\" said Lau, citing CDC statistics that identify 427 of 764 shooting deaths in Indiana in 1998 as self-inflicted.

The 1998 statistics, the latest available, also show Indiana\'s death toll from gunfire that year to be the state\'s lowest in seven years.

Lafayette attorney Kirk Freeman, who heard about Campbell\'s defensive pistol course while defending a suspected Boone County drug dealer, embraced the 16-hour class as a professional approach to personal protection and gun safety.

\"You train because you don\'t want to do it,\" Freeman said of the course and the chance he might pull a pistol in earnest. \"The best indicator of good training is avoidance. It\'s never a Kung Fu master who gets in a fight in the bar.\"

But like Campbell, when push comes to shove, he believes the best defense is a good offense.

\"If anything goes wrong, hey, what do I have to worry about?\" says Freeman. \"I know what to do, and I\'ve got the means to do it.\"