Guilford County get your gun.
Details are starting to surface about a new Guilford County program meant to elevate the safety of county citizens by focusing on proper gun use, marksmanship, situational awareness and the best ways to deal with the threats that seem more and more prevalent in today’s society.
The classes, led by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department, will start in September as part of a Guilford County government program that is perhaps unique in the country. That program will use a new simulator – one that’s normally used to train law enforcement officers – to teach citizens in the safe and proper use of firearms. The classes will also teach gun laws and instruct citizens on things such as when to notify law enforcement instead of taking matters into their own hands.
The unique program is the brainchild of Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips, who made his idea known earlier this year when he started the process that’s now bringing the county the new training program. Phillips said that, after the San Bernardino terror attacks last December in which more than a dozen people were killed, he began trying to think of ways county officials and citizens could be more proactive in keeping society safer.
Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes said this week that some details are still being worked out but that the new program will be up and running in September.
“It will focus on safe handling of your gun and we’ll also be doing some target training,” Barnes said.
He said that training will include “dry fire” using the new simulator, but not “real fire” at the shooting range. In early discussions, county officials considered having part of the instruction take place with real guns at the Sheriff’s Department’s shooting range near the Guilford County Prison Farm in eastern Guilford County.
Barnes said there will also be an emphasis on gun laws and concealed carry laws because there have been some important changes in recent years that many citizens may not be aware of.
Plans call for the classes to take place in a large conference room in the Sheriff’s Department in the Otto Zenke building at 400 W. Washington St. in Greensboro.
Barnes said that, due to everything that is happening now in society, this is a time when public safety awareness is critically important, and he added that, these days especially, that goes not just for citizens but also for his officers as well.
“I worry every time these guys get a call,” Barnes said.
Guilford County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Ken Whitesell said the new firearms training simulator the county bought earlier this year will be delivered in two or three weeks.
One thing that will be a disappointment to some is that, while program planners have decided to use the machine for target practice, citizens won’t be able to go through the real action scenarios. In one mode, that simulator allows users to sharpen their decision-making skills by generating real-life scenarios in which people are presented with threats or non-threats, and trained when – and when not – to pull the trigger. Sheriff’s deputies will still train using those video-presented situations to train officers, however citizens will not.
“We probably won’t use on-screen scenarios,” Whitesell said of the new classes.
Whitesell said use of real life scenarios with machine became controversial after Commissioner Ray Trapp raised some concerns earlier this year and everyone involved decided it would be best just not to go there.
At a Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting in March, Trapp stated that he was concerned the video-based simulator tends to have an excess of minority villains; and he argued that use of the simulator might promote vigilantism in Guilford County.
Whitesell said the new course will also offer training in helping people decide when it makes sense to call and wait for help and be “the best eyes and witness” for the Sheriff’s Department, rather than take action themselves.
He said that ideally the classes could be moved to a permanent location like the old jail in downtown Greensboro where the machine might be set up permanently. That would keep sheriff’s staff from having to break down and remove it after each training session.
Phillips said he had met recently with other county officials to help work out the details and he said that his hope is that the program will help make citizens safer.
“I’m excited about that,” he said.