The seminar, led by officers with the Marietta Police Department, focused on providing information on how to keep guns out of the hands of children, as well as letting people know about Georgia’s gun laws.
Marietta Police range master Lt. Brian Marshall told attendees some safety rules might seem obvious — such as treating every gun as if it were loaded and not pointing a gun at anything they are not willing to destroy. But others, such as advising people to fire a warning shot when a dangerous intruder is approaching in their home, were not so obvious.
“Only a crazy person is going to advance on someone who has signaled that they have a firearm and they intend to use it,” Marshall said.
Sgt. Jake King went through a visual presentation on the state’s gun laws, including information on where people can and cannot carry concealed weapons. He advised those licensed to carry a concealed gun to use a holster that keeps it hidden, rather than displaying it for all to see.
“If I’m a bad guy and I see a guy with a gun, he’s going to be the guy I take out first,” King said.
The seminar had about 750 people register, which led it to be moved to the 600-seat auditorium. While the gun seminars have regularly filled up the City Hall Council Chamber, this was the first time demand required it to be moved to the middle school.
“We typically do this, and we get about 150,” Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn said before the seminar.
The event was the first gun safety seminar held after the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 26 people dead, including 20 first graders, as well as renewed calls for gun control that followed the shooting.
Anthony and Margaret Kirkland of Marietta said they came to the event because they inherited guns more than a decade ago but were still novices when it came to safely using them. When a series of burglaries occurred in their area recently, they decided to learn more.
“We just want to learn about being responsible gun owners,” Margaret Kirkland said. “(Police) are the ones who keep us safe, so we’ll learn from them.”
Flynn said he got the idea for the gun seminars when he was police chief in Savannah, where one of his lieutenants drew a surprisingly large response with impromptu gun safety events. In 2010, he decided to have Marietta’s firearms training staff teach an adapted version of the police safety training to the public.
“Police always get a lot of questions about guns,” he said. “What’s legal? What can I do? What can’t I do? What do I need to know?”
Flynn said that whatever side of the gun debate people are on, they should all want to make sure children are safe around firearms. “And secondarily safety of adults around guns,” he said.
Attendees were given free gun locks, some of which were obtained through a federal program. When police anticipated running short, Smyrna-based Glock Inc. donated 400 more so everyone could get one. But King made clear he wasn’t recommending one gun maker over another.
“In two years, that’s the first time we’ve mentioned a manufacturer,” he said.