There have been more than 130 mass shootings across the United States this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Although mass shootings do not make up the majority of the gun violence incidents in America, their impact on its community is visible. 

The Rochester Personal Defense Company discussed the ongoing gun violence and highlights the importance of firearm safety.

Whether for hunting, sport or personal protection, American gun owners count the right to bear arms in part of the second amendment. But, due to gun-related violence across the nation, the debate over gun policies has become polarized.

“There is a big, long social political discussion on that,” the founder of Rochester Personal Defense Company David Jenkins said. “But right now they're focused on the item because it's easier to attack an item than it is a person. If we can keep influencing people to do well and store their guns safely and securely, we're limiting the access of bad people from getting guns so we can actually cut gun crime down.”

Having those rights up for debate in the wake of several tragedies, one individual knows firsthand the dangers of gun violence, being a witness to the mass shooting last May at a Buffalo Tops supermarket.

“I heard the shots, I heard the initial shots,” Zipporah Jones said. “I heard the sound. As you hear him going into the store, I heard them stop. I heard the reload and I went over there just to see like, you know, sometimes you don't want to believe things that you see and hear. But I just wanted to know what was going on. I just wanted to make sure it was none of my loved ones. And so I saw the carnage that was left after he did what he did. I saw him come out of the store. I saw them apprehend him. I saw the four people outside of the store that were deceased. So it's something that's ingrained in my mind, and I'll never forget it.”

Jones uses her experience to not only educate herself on firearm use and safety but hopes to teach others safe practices as well.

“The Black community in America has been experiencing this gun violence for decades,” Jones said. “The best thing you can do is educate yourself and prepare yourself.”

Participants partake in a two-day event for the National Rifle Association pistol instructor certification course, offering training for everyday citizens and professionals. Retired staff sergeant Michael Kapela from the New York State Army National Guard spoke about his desire to teach others the use of firearms.

“I love teaching and so that if I can take this to my civilian populace, I'm happy to do so,” Kapela said. “I'm happy to make sure that not only do they learn, but they learn in a positive and safe way. The more we can put a positive message out with people who are interested in it is only going to benefit those of us who are already in the community and also dispelling myths and fears and apprehensions of those who aren't into firearms or the shooting sports.”

Kapela notes that his opinions and statements are his own and do not reflect that of the United States Army, the U.S. military or the New York State Army National Guard.

Jenkins believes issues surrounding gun violence is not the firearm itself, but the hands it falls into, reiterating the importance of educating and training students its appropriate use when needed.

“If somebody wants to hurt somebody, they'll use a gun,” Jenkins said. “And if the guns aren't available, they'll use a knife. They'll use cars, they'll use poison, they'll use a stick. They'll use a rock. Anything they can find to hurt somebody they will use to find.”

He is hoping the instructors not only walk away with the knowledge of teaching other students the proper use of firearms but the responsibility of owning one as well.

“Because you're a firearms owner, you're going to be held to different standards now,” Jenkins said. “You're going to be expected to be safer. You're going to be expected to be more respectful. We just want to educate people so that they go out there and they become a resource for their circle and their family.”