Allegheny County sheriff puts his sights on gun safety
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With applications for gun permits on the rise, Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen wants responsible gun owners.
Last week, Sheriff Mullen held what he hopes to be the first in a series of safety seminars, with two deputies from the Allegheny County Police Training Academy sharing their expertise with about three dozen participants.
While the turnout for the seminar was promising, the number is minuscule compared with the number of permit applications the sheriff's office has received: 19,304 in 2012, a 54.8 percent increase over the 2011 figure of 12,472.
In January, the office received 2,639 applications. The number for the same month in 2012 was 1,749.
"We're absolutely jammed down there," Sheriff Mullen said about his staff's workload.
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jon Held is encountering a similar situation. His office received 12,600 applications in 2012, compared with 8,226 in 2011.
With the knowledge of the increasing numbers in mind, deputies Gary Wolverton and Mark Lewis spoke about a variety of firearms safety measures last week at the Monroeville Public Safety Training Center.
"It's an incredible responsibility," Deputy Wolverton said about gun ownership as he and Deputy Lewis addressed topics such as ammunition, safes and locks, and considerations about children and firearms.
They recommended teaching youngsters not to handle a gun, but such measures are not enough to ensure safety.
"Don't ever trust that they won't touch it if you're not there, even if you've explained it," Deputy Lewis said.
The deputies offered general guidelines about storage, which they stressed as a major component regarding firearms safety, suggesting that owners shop around and consider spending more on items that will provide for greater reliability. For those who carry handguns, that also applies to holsters.
Other considerations when carrying firearms include being aware of places where they're not allowed, which could include private property at the owner's discretion. The deputies also advised owners to check other states' gun laws when planning to travel.
The discharge of firearms raises further safety issues.
"Think about what you're shooting into. Is grandpap on the other side of that wall?" Deputy Lewis said. "You can't know enough about what is beyond your target."
He and Mr. Wolverton encouraged participants to contact the sheriff's office to provide feedback about the seminar. Further sessions will be posted on sheriffalleghenycounty.com when scheduled.
In Westmoreland County, information about safety is available at the sheriff's office in the county courthouse and soon will be posted on his website.
First Published February 21, 2013 4:59 am