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Sheriff's office, Friends of NRA sponsor safety course

| Friday, Aug. 20, 2004

Thirty-nine area women now will feel more confident about handling handguns, thanks to the Armstrong County Sheriff Department's annual Handgun Safety Course for Women.

Co-sponsored by Armstrong County's Friends of the NRA, the handgun safety mini-seminar was held August 14 at the Ford City Sportsman's Club in North Buffalo Township.

"We had 51 women sign up for the course," sheriff's office employee Patty Creider said, "but we expect that some won't be able to make it, because something might come up at the last minute."

For most of her life, safety course participant Robin (Barrett) Tarr, wife of Armstrong County Deputy Alan Tarr, was afraid of handguns.

"I was totally terrified of guns until Alan came along," she said. "He taught me how to use a gun appropriately."

The couple knew each other from their teen years spent at Leechburg Area High School, and became reacquainted when Robin became a burglary victim.

After 17 years of being married to a policeman, she said, "I've become a very avid shooter, not only of handguns, but sporting clays, skeet."

Her favorite handgun is a Colt Python, 38 caliber revolver.

Safety course participant Kathy Rashlich of Ford City also prefers a 38 caliber.

"I work as an abstractor," she explained, "and I see the guys from the sheriff's department up at the courthouse. They told me about the course. This is the second time I've come. This year, I brought four other people with me."

Rashlich learned about the importance of handling guns in a responsible manner from her father, the late Joe "J.J." Rashlich.

"My dad was a state trooper, he worked out of the Kittanning Barracks," she said, "so growing up, I always knew about gun safety. It's something I think everyone should know, and I'm glad they do it for women."

The handgun safety course, which first was offered in 2000, was initiated by Armstrong County Sheriff Larry Crawford. "I read about them having it in other areas and thought it was a good idea," he said.

The course is free and open to area women age 21 and older.

Through his membership in the Friends of the NRA, Crawford learned about grants which are available through the organization for such projects. Some of the grant money was used to purchase an impressive assortment of handguns for use at the handgun safety courses, giving even those who don't own a gun the chance to experience the power of a handgun.

Contrary to what a lot of people might think, our county law enforcement personnel are some of the most warm and caring people around.

The open, lighthearted approach on the part of District Attorney Scott Andreassi, Sheriff Crawford and the county deputies, all of whom volunteered part of their precious Saturday leisure time to conduct the course, quickly put any anxious participants at ease.

"The first thing we try to do is relax," Crawford said, "get everyone to feel comfortable."

The gathering in the meeting room of the sportsman's club had the atmosphere of a friendly get together.

After Andreassi, the sheriff and deputies, the final speaker for the program was Bill Roberts.

A member of the Ford City Sportsman's Club and certified NRA safety instructor, Roberts began his presentation by stating, "We live in the only country where you can have the sheriff and his deputies, and the officers of the court explain to you how to use a gun."

How to get a permit to carry, a right afforded to all law-abiding adult residents of the state, also was explained during the program.

"For the official NRA course," Roberts explained, "you have to devote two or three evenings to complete the course, and most people do not have that much time to put into it."

That is why the county offers a condensed version.

"I'm awed by what they did," Roberts said. "I think it's a good course, and I think they are to be commended."

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