Dauphin County gun safety classes advocate for responsible ownership

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DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s estimated Americans purchased more than 23 million guns in 2020. It’s hard to know the exact number, however, because the sales are based on background checks. And not every check results in sales.

One number we do know, the number of people killed because of gun violence, which for 2020 tops 20,000.

Industry experts believe much of these record gun sales went to first-time owners, and two local men want to make sure everyone is educated and aware of the responsibility gun ownership brings. They’re teaming up, offering free classes in Dauphin County.

“Me being from the inner city, born and raised, I want to say a good dozen out of 20 of my friends were murdered throughout my life due to gun violence,” Ralph Rodriguez, a Harrisburg native giving back to his community, said.

His grief is part of the reason why his nonprofit, All You Can Inc., partnered with 717 Armory for monthly gun safety sessions.

“A lot of times we purchase these guns or are given these guns and not cognizant of the repercussions that come after we use them,” Rodriguez said.

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Rodriguez is providing 30 scholarships so class participants can learn how to hold a firearm, load it, shoot it and make sure it’s properly stored.

Sherrod Baltimore is the head firearms instructor at 717 Armory and sees the need for ongoing education.

“Whether it’s underage children getting access to firearms and having unfortunate accidents happen or legally owning firearms. owners who have access to their firearms and get injured because they’re not sure how to be safe with it,” Baltimore said.

For Yaritza Garcia, having a gun in the house offers protection.

“As a single mom, I’m alone with two kids. Going to the grocery store on a late-night trip, you never know what could happen in that parking lot,” Garcia said.

But she knows the responsibilities of having a gun in her home with two small children. She says the classes helped her have a tough discussion.

“I have been able to avoid having a potential accident because she understands this is not a toy, it’s very serious,” Garcia said.

Stories like Garcia’s are why Rodriguez and Baltimore have teamed up.

“It’s important that we eliminate, if possible, these accidents from happening because they are potentially fatal,” Baltimore said.

“And if we can [save], just one life, it’s worth it,” Rodriguez said.

The next community gun safety class is Saturday, Oct. 30, at 8:30 a.m. There are 30 spots available and for more information, click here.

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