H-SANTA MARIA

Feb 2, 2011 9:02 PM by Ariel Wesler

Safe Family: Does owning a gun make you safer?

More people are buying guns, even as crime rates decline.... but does being armed really make you safer?

According to the latest stats from the F.B.I., gun sales reached an all-time high in 2010... even as violent crime declined nationwide. The agency reports gun sales have also jumped 12 percent since the election of President Obama. Experts estimate 17 million women now own guns in America. Tonight, we're exploring whether owning a gun makes you safer.

This class at Rangemaster in Santa Maria targets women of all ages. The goal of Women's Shoot 101 is to teach them how to use guns safely.

"A little bit of sport, but mostly protection for the house," says Karen Skropits, who recently signed up for the class.

Skropits has wanted to get her hands on a firearm for a while, but was waiting until her kids got older. She's now taking the class with her daughter.

"We're getting everybody trained so anybody that's going to be around it will now how to handle it," Skropits said.

"I was super stoked," said Brooke Skopits, Karen's daughter. "I wanted to go that day when they told me about it," she said.

But the Santa Maria Police Department says owning a gun won't necessarily make you safer and your safe plan could backfire.

"We do have cases where we have homes that are burglarized. People have their guns taken from them because they're storing them in an unsafe manner," said Lt. Jerel Haley with the Santa Maria Police Department.

Officers agree if you want to purchase a gun, the class is a good idea, but they say weapons should be a last resort. They want to see people do more to prevent crime in the first place.

"Securing your home. Being aware of your surroundings. Proper lighting, Lt. Haley said.

"I feel better having a gun to protect myself if I want to," said Mandy Elsts who has taken the class five times. "I know how to use it, and it's locked up where it should be."

She says it teaches proper gun techniques.

"How you stand. How you're shoulders are to where your hands are on the grip," Elsts said.

Techniques that could potentially save your life, though some say it simply puts you in harm's way.

The class is held once a month on Thursdays. Instructors say they've had more than 40 students sign up since starting the class in October.

Safe Family is going to be a weekly series every Wednesday night on KSBY News. If you have any ideas for stories about ways to keep your family safe, we'd like to know about them. Email us at news@ksby.com.

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