WatchSonoma Watch

GUEST OPINION: SR police mishandled weapons display

Rev. Curtis Byrd

The Rev. Curtis Byrd is a member of the Santa Rosa Planning Commission, the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission and a vice president of Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP. Julie N. Combs is a member of the Santa Rosa Community Advisory Board.

A child holding a semi-automatic weapon provided by the Santa Rosa Police Department SWAT team (“SWAT exhibit draws criticism,” Aug. 16) at the Day and Night Festival in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park does not reflect a well planned or implemented gun safety program by our police department. Playing with real weapons is not — nor ever will be — an age-appropriate activity.

Julie Combs

While we support increased friendly police interaction with children, we question the existence of any appropriate instance or policy allowing a child to freely pick up any weapon without parents’ permission and without providing proper training in gun safety. All Santa Rosa City and Sonoma County law enforcement agencies should immediately rescind any and all policies permitting the assignment of guns by its officers into the hands of children.

The Santa Rosa Police Department’s current strategy to allow our children to engage in recreation with semiautomatic weapons sends a mixed message to impressionable youngsters, glories the use of firearms and works against the basic tenets of gun safety, “Stop, don’t touch, leave the area, and tell an adult,” as prescribed since 1988 by the National Rifle Association Rules for Kids and the California state Department of Justice.

We agree with the countless members and organizations in our community that question handing a gun to a child with no educational component — especially at MLK Park after a mural was dedicated on Aug. 11 in memory of local heroes whose lives represent peace, equality and social justice — paid no respect, lacked sensitivity, proper consideration and planning.

We call upon the chief of police to develop and underwrite a new educational approach which uses age-appropriate activities to teach children safe ways to behave when they encounter a gun and other deadly weapons. Many in our community have warm memories of being taught gun safety and appropriate hunting and target practice as part of their heritage. We believe these can be appropriate bonding activities provided they are done with parental knowledge and permission and use well accepted gun safety norms in an appropriate cultural context.

We need to know that our Police Department is using an effective method for improving relationships between law enforcement and our community; a method that prevents violent crime. We do not believe that handling weapons accomplishes these goals.

We agree with Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm for Sonoma County law enforcement to “get out of the car and interact with the community.” Community-oriented policing was prescribed in the 1997-98 Sonoma County grand jury report’s recommendations to the Sonoma County law enforcement chiefs. The report called for the creation of “a multi-disciplinary approach to developing trusting relationships with citizens, fostering community partnerships and improving citizen understanding of and satisfaction with public services.”

However, we believe that allowing children to handle firearms without training is not the best way to foster this partnership.

The South Park Day and Night Festival was a positive community event. We look forward to participating in it in the future and seeing positive press coverage of the hard work that goes into it.

Their activities on this day should be a model to every neighborhood for including our youth in healthy, fun, educational activities.

Finally we, support all efforts to foster dialogue among community representatives, elected officials and law enforcement in Sonoma County to improve community concerns about law enforcement and reduction in gun violence.

We (including Judy Kennedy of Santa Rosa Neighborhood Alliance; Sonja Taylor and Ernie Carpenter, NAACP first vice president); and many others, look forward to joining in a communitywide effort to create a proactive, responsive, dynamic, collaborative, committed, engaged and well-informed citizenry one neighborhood at a time.

18 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: SR police mishandled weapons display”

  1. special needs says:

    my child with special needs was recently subjected to a weapons tutoral by an officer . without my permission now my child who cant comprehend firearm tutorial has a unhealthy perspective with officers and firearms when he sees them he pionts and says gu for gun .

  2. @Julie says:

    Yes, we get it… you have to make a fuss about parking, weapons, and anything else to get your name out for your council run.

  3. Rick says:

    There was a post ealier in another string that said the officers WERE asking the permission of the adults with the kids. Different people see different things. Some have said it was illegal for the kids to handle the guns. I know that people want to make this event into a negative. It is not possible. It was positive in every aspect. Kids got to interact with police and vice versa. The kids, if they participated, probably enjoyed it and will remember the positive interaction. How can this be bad? Oh yes, a gun was involved. If you believe guns are a bad thing, then this was bad. If you thinks guns are not bad, then you probably like it, or don’t mind it. I have heard here that gun safety is good, but there is no need for them handle “Assault Weapons”. I disagree. The most popular type of competition rifle is based on the AR, assault rifle, platform, or base design and look very much like those in the picture. It is comortable to shoot and generally extremely accurate. Those involved in the shooting sports, yes, they are sports, even Olympic events, believe exposure to firearms safety is very important. Teaching should come from interest. How do you get kids interested? Exposure. There you have it. SRPD scored on several very positive areas here. Good job.
    As for the gun violence in America, a country I am proud to have served and live in, no child who has ever gone through an organized youth shooting sports program has EVER been a mass murder shooter in this country. EVER. They learned early on that guns were tools to be respected and used, not worshiped. Kids in competitive shooting, 9 year old minimum in some programs, not mine, learn mental discipline and self control. These tpes of events are invaluable. Yes, we have more gun crimes than the UK, but they have 4 times the violent crime rate of the USA. Thank goodness those people in the UK don’t have guns, there would be few left standing. God bless America.

  4. Attila Nagy says:

    In many of the comments here there is an assumption that there was gun safety instruction. I was there. There was NO gun safety instruction. There also was NO request by the SWAT officer for parental consent for the children to hold the weapons.

  5. well then... says:

    @No Guns Please
    Conservatives and liberals can agree you should be watching over your kids.

    @Non Violent
    Keep your kids away from our gun education.

  6. Joseph says:

    I live in a low income housing project in the area. The fair is very popular with the families in the area with great participation.
    I also have experiences seeing young men die or be critically injured and scared for life on theie faces when shot. Guns are common place and these kids are looking for leadership. So I guess what the critics are saying “it is better for the children to learn about guns by a gang member at home; than it is to learn from a professional”
    Sad, even disturbing in light of the killings and assults against law enforcement and political leaders this past two weeks.
    All this work to take Kawana back from the gangs, seems we just handed it back to them.

  7. Frank says:

    picking the constitution/ bill of rights apart one word at a time
    these people (Rev. Curtis Byrd and Julie Combs)are comfortable with kitchen knifes why? cuz thay have been properly trained on how to use them

  8. No Guns Please says:

    Parental approval should be obtained before police let children handle guns. Liberal AND conservative parents can agree on that.

  9. Thoughts from Bedford Falls says:

    When old line liberals like Byrd and Combs talk about “proactive, collaborative, committed, and engaged” watch out. What is coming next is their idea of social justice which is not pretty.

    Political correctness has taken over the political discussion in this country from the board rooms and class rooms to the steps of city hall.

    The cops did their jobs. The liberals love to pontificate in their pompous and dogmatic ways. And in the end they enact rules and regulations that harm society not move it forward.

    This used to be a free society with free speech as its corner stone. Now if you are a cop, teacher, boss or politican you are chastised for the off handed comment someone takes offense to or trying to show kids to tools of your trade and start a dialogue to break down barriers.

    Of course, liberals take exception to this because they don’t care for the police dating back to their hippie days in the 60′s. And generally they don’t like authority.

    Hopefully the Chief sees this for what it is, an effort to apply PC to their efforts and just says NO.

  10. Non Violent says:

    Note to City of Santa Rosa and to the SRPD:

    Keep your hands and your “gun education” away from our kids.

    Keep your nose out of our parenting.

    Your brainwashing is not “education” for the kids.

    The City of Santa Rosa deserves to be sued if it refuses to keep its police away from our kids without our consent. Criminal investigations are the job of police and nothing else.

  11. Skippy says:

    Citizens can never own too many guns, or too much ammunition.
    Only slaves and subjects cooperate with Big Govt. where guns are concerned.
    Eventually and inevitably, your guns are your freedom.
    Keep ‘em; buy more; practice; teach your families.
    Nothing frightens a tyrant or a liberal(redundant) more.

  12. Joyce Garcia says:

    “The usual road to slavery is that first they take away your guns, then they take away your property, then last of all they tell you to shut up and say you are enjoying it.” – James A. Donald

    Teach our children well.

    I wonder what those children would say about their experience with SWAT? I would suspect they are not tramatized. Infact I would be curious of their opinion of the police.

  13. Just Me says:

    All of the articles, all of the anti’s posts have indicated these children were playing with the guns, having fun and their parents were no where to be found. I really find that very unbelievable.

    I wish I had known about this event and had been there to witness it. I do have to believe that they were NOT playing with them, but were receiving proper instruction on how to hold them before they were allowed to handle them. Handling a gun and playing with it are two very different things.

    Get your heads out of the sand. Do you allow your children to play with the hammer and saw, or the hand mixer or food processor, their bicycle or even the family car without proper instruction?

    No, I didn’t think so. Parents, please contact poster Rick and get yourself a class on gun handling before YOU harm someone with your ignorant ideas. Learn what it’s really all about. Thank you!

  14. good one says:

    Oh for goodness sake, I believe there is a constitutional amendment that allows for the right to guns. So why not actually teach about guns? This generation is being sissified by well meaning folks that forget that up until the past two decades, kids often had pellet guns, shotguns, etc and were taught responisbility towards guns. Now we let kids play the most violent games imaginable, using “fake” guns on their playstations.
    Good for SRPD for one, letting kids really see what a rifle looks like, and two, for helping kids see that these are not toys.

  15. levelheaded says:

    ““Stop, don’t touch, leave the area, and tell an adult,” as prescribed since 1988 by the National Rifle Association Rules for Kids and the California state Department of Justice.”

    What you are quoting is rules to use when children find a gun. Not when they are being instructed how to handle a gun by a trained professional in a controlled situation.

    Please stop trying to spread your anti-gun agenda.

  16. Tom Sullivan says:

    I think Jack Nicholson, as Col Nathan R. Jessup said it best…

    “Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns, who’s going to do it? You? You Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly imagine. My existence while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth, because deep down inside, in places you don’t talk about at parties; you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.

    We use words like, honor, code and loyalty, we use them as the backbone of something spend defending something; you use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to someone who rises and sleeps under the blanket of freedom I provide and questions the manner in which i provide it. I would rather you just say ‘Thank you’ and go on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

    Support your local police

  17. POLL says:

    Give this comment a thumbs up if you support Julie Combs being elected to Santa Rosa City Council in 2012 and thumbs down if you are against her being elected.

  18. Rick says:

    I can certainly respect the opinion of Rev. Curtis Byrd and Julie Combs. Their perspective comes from the programs they are involved in and have probably created. Programs to teach compassion and peaceful community involvement. In many city neighborhoods, the only mention of guns is in a negative way. The only news about guns is negative and usually violent. Guns and crime are a negative, no matter the context. It is no wonder this subject has created such a stir. I posted the info below on 8/18. That is my position and my opinion. I see only a positive with “Kids and Guns”, because my programs only involve positive activiies and results from putting the two together.

    Example: If evertime I got near dogs, they barked at me and tried to bite me, I would like them. That would be my experience. That doesnt mean all dogs are bad and should be avoided. Canine companions would think I was being irrational.

    August 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm I posted this same response on a similar article. I hope I am not violating posting etiquette by copying it here. The info seemed appropriate..
    I have seen many interesting comments here. Some think it was great, some think it was horrible. I think the opinions follow each persons experience. Some say it is a political demonstration of the only future available to a certain demographic in a geographical area. I saw that movie. I saw the word “Assault rifle” thrown around like it was an evil demon bent on destroying all who touch it.
    Was it firearms education? Some say yes and some say no. Some say, where are the experts on the subject, what do they say? Well, it wouldn’t matter. Those who have made up their minds won’t be swayed by an expert. That being said, I am and expert. I am a certified, card carrying instructor at the local, state and national level. Including Range safety, handguns, rifles, shotguns, competition shooting and all black powder guns. I teach over 2 dozen courses a year and coordinate and plan many more. This display by SRPD was fine. There were handling the guns with direct supervision. I am assuming they were told how to hold the gun since hewas holding it fine. I would call that instruction “education”. They took advantage of a teachable moment. It works. Parental permission? Sounds like some people there posted here that the children were asking permssion. One person seemed upset the kids were “enjoying” the guns. I should hope so. No one should be forced to participate if they were not going to have fun. I teach kids to shoot. They are the majority of my participants. Some come out as families and they all learn the same thing at the same time. Age is up to the parents. Some people who own guns want their youngest children to be exposed to them in a controlled environment to elimiate the mystery. They are not mysterious living things, they are mechanical devices. As for the gun violence in America, a country I am proud to have served and live in, no child who has ever gone through an organized youth shooting sports program has EVER been a mass murder shooter in this country. EVER. They learned early on that guns were tools to be respected and used, not worshiped. Kids in competitive shooting, 9 year old minimum in some programs, not mine, learn mental discipline and self control. These tpes of events are invaluable. Yes, we have more gun crimes than the UK, but they have 4 times the violent crime rate of the USA. Thank goodness those people in the UK don’t have guns, there would be few left standing. God bless America.