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When the bullets fly make sure of where you are


Angie Rolen, at left, and Rhonda Evans, who is co-owner of the Jewelry
Connection, have been best friends since childhood. Rhonda was
celebrating Angie's good fortune in the return of her late mother's
diamond rings.
Published: 6:47 PM, 03/08/2013

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

The March Lion has completely dominated the early month's weather in our hometown that was under another winter storm warning mid-week after winter dumped about six inches of snow in the mountains last weekend and more on Wednesday. Spring is just about 11 days away.

Let me tell you about a few people I met last week. At the courthouse a fellow said "Hi," but it took more than a few minutes and I had to be reminded of Jerry Hall's name. I've thought about him over the past year because I recalled his back problems considering mine. We had a chat, which I will share soon. When I saw a commotion outside our office, there was an older man trying to get a newspaper out of our rack. Apologizing to John Wodalski for thinking he was dead, when he is very much active at age 86, my next question was: "When are the hummingbirds returning?" John, who feeds hundreds every summer, quickly answered it will be April 14 or 15th. Keep reading and I will tell you how this happened.

Yes, my land tax payment was almost late, that's where Jerry was on March 4, too. Later in the week during another visit is when a most interesting fellow was walking my way. Donald Jenkins is not one of the local Jenkins family members and comes from Maryville but got tired of big city life. He has worked in the nuclear industry at Oak Ridge for 39 years and for many recent years has lived at Carson Springs. And how did he end up in Cocke County? After half a dozen questions, I learned this connection. He still drives about 140 miles roundtrip to work and loves working in utilities for Oak Ridge Y-12 and is approaching retirement age. He and Darlene live across from Edgemont School, and she is the former Darlene Williamson, of Newport.



Firing range is not combat


We have been talking about the way you can train and qualify to get a state-issued handgun carry permit whether you take a private class or one offered by the Cocke County Sheriff's Department. After classroom training at the Newport Community Center we went to the firing range, which I believe is operated by Detective Kevin Benton at Grassy Fork. Each participant had to fire many rounds in hopes of eventually hitting the target. I shot some sort of a mini Glock .40 caliber pistol provided by the sheriff's dept. From an estimated 20 feet away, my bullets barely stayed on the target and within the black silhouette. While I used to own and shoot a .45 Colt and .357 Colt Trooper that was 30 years ago, when Bryan Murr was a road deputy and ammunition was cheap and available. Law officers will tell you it takes constant training to stay sharp with a gun. As Sheriff Armando Fontes often says, you need regular training until gun handling is natural and safe. He believes in education, training, and awareness for citizens so "they are not crime victims or feel like victims."

We talked a little about types of guns best for people but there seems to be no rule. Revolvers are easiest to use because once you load the cartridges and snap the cylinder shut you just pull the trigger. A semi-automatic takes more training, holds more ammunition, and is the choice of law officers. If it jams or has a misfire, you better know what you are doing. It is handguns that cause the most deaths and not assault weapons. Sheriff Fontes shared this statistic from 2011: Of about 33,000 gunshot deaths only 11,000 were from one person shooting another. The majority of deaths were self-inflicted. Of the killings more than 90 percent were by handgun. I am sure there are accidental shootings as we have reported a few over the years. Several I recall happened because someone dropped a semi-automatic weapon that discharged wounding or killing himself or herself or another person.

So, proper gun handling and shooting instruction is important and to help with this are sheriff's dept. firearms instructors David Crum, Richard Caldwell, Derrick Woods, and John Carrell. All these men have received additional weapons training and certification and use their expertise to help citizens.


Teach children to be careful


Once you are trained, also teach your children, says the sheriff. He has several children and he often teaches them the dangers of guns. One way he gets this message across is to take them to a shooting range where they use boards and jugs of water for targets. The children can see the impact of the bullet on objects and then know what would happen if someone were to get shot. "I teach them that a gun is always loaded. I treat every weapon as if it is loaded." And never become complacent around a gun. He told me of a fellow who was demonstrating chambering bullets in his weapon and did not realize the gun barrel pointed to the side was directly aimed at a person.

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