By Victoria L. Kidd
On September 30, 2014, the body of slain real estate agent Beverly Carter, 50, was found just a short drive from the Scott, Arkansas, property for which she had scheduled a showing a few days earlier. Two suspects were later charged in connection to her murder, with one admitting that the reason for the crime was that as a realtor working alone, Carter was an easy target. This crime of opportunity raised awareness about the dangers of the profession among realtors, but for Bill Copp, the safety committee chairman for the Winchester-based Blue Ridge Association of Realtors, it was a call to action.
“After the murder of the realtor in Arkansas, several people started asking me about personal protection,” he explains. “They’d ask about firearms, pepper spray, and other measures they could take to make them feel safer and be safer. The problem with answering those questions is that the answers aren’t standard across the board. It’s really more of a question about changing behaviors, identifying risks, and deploying measures you are comfortable with.”
The more he spoke with professionals (both in and outside of the real estate profession) who were concerned for their personal safety, the more he knew that there was an unmet need for personal protection consultation and firearms safety training in the local area. He mentioned the need to a long-term friend, Eric Schaff, and the wheels for a new business were suddenly
Schaff tells everyone that he learned how to shoot when he was about seven years old. Without fearing that he would “shoot his eye out,” Schaff’s father gave him a Daisy Red Rider BB Rifle that was much like the one given to Ralphie Parker in the 1983 classic A Christmas Story. Growing up comfortable around guns made him the go-to guy for many of his friends who wanted to learn more about shooting, light gunsmithing, firearm care and cleaning, etc. Today, Schaff holds several NRA certifications demonstrating his ability to provide training for individuals wanting to know more about pistols, rifles, and shotguns. His background, interests, and work style were perfect complements to Copp’s capabilities and expertise.
Copp is an auxiliary deputy sherriff, formerly a sergeant in the Army National Guard, and (like Schaff) holds numerous NRA certifications. He says that most people call him “the safety” guy, and have for many years before discussions with Schaff would lead the pair to launch Triton Firearms & Safety Training, LLC.
The business provides hands-on instruction that ensures students are able to safely and proficiently handle their firearm. Contrary to the connotation often associated with such businesses, Triton keeps its classes small, works one-on-one with each attendee, and makes sure all students feel comfortable in the learning environment. Such is obvious to anyone asking the pair about their desire to make women feel comfortable in their classes.
“We want to see women empowered,” Schaff says. “Women are the fastest growing part of the shooting industry, and yet they are often made to feel uncomfortable when it comes to receiving gun safety and shooting training. We want them to feel comfortable, because we know that we are providing instruction that ultimately helps them protect their homes and themselves.”
“And we aren’t just exclusively about firearms training either,” Copp adds. “We also are the go-to guys for personal safety training. In our Refuse To Be A Victim crime prevention and personal safety seminar, for example, we teach students about how they can minimize the risk of victimization, stay protected while traveling, secure their homes, and more. Firearms are mentioned only briefly in that course, because it’s really about much more than that.”
The Refuse To Be A Victim program was created by a coalition of female NRA members in 1993. It’s a comprehensive four-hour seminar that covers everything from workplace safety strategies to using your Internet service provider’s parental control options to block access to adult chat rooms. Both Copp and Schaff are qualified instructors for
In addition to offering the NRA’s prevention and personal safety seminar, Triton sells SABRE branded safety and security products (including a pepper spray recognized as the leading brand) while also teaching two SABRE programs: the Civilian Safety Awareness Program and the College Safety Program. Copp relays that being the victim of a violent attack is much more feasible than the average person believes it to be. “You are 52 times more likely to be attacked than you are to be involved in a car accident and 229 times more likely to be attacked than you are to have your house catch on fire,” he says, “and yet, we don’t take risks to our personal safety seriously. We want to offer programs that raise awareness about the risks and that provide knowledge that truly has the potential to save someone’s life.”
The Civilian Safety Awareness Program reviews risks with seminar attendees, addresses ways to stay safe, and teaches students how to properly use pepper spray products. The College Safety Program speaks specifically to the needs of students, helping them make their personal safety a priority during their time on campus. The uniquely structured program helps college-aged participants discourage threats, identify potentially dangerous situations, and deploy strategies that ensure students stay safe. (Noting that one in five college-aged women will be the victim of sexual assault while on campus and more than 10,000 students will be victims of robbery or aggravated assault each year, Triton’s principals are particularly proud to offer
These courses augment the NRA Basic Pistol Shooting Course they offer regularly, again providing proof to the statement that the business is not exclusively about firearm use as the ultimate and/or only option for personal safety. “We know that not everyone is comfortable with or interested in carrying a firearm,” Copp says. “We just want to help people truly understand their risks and find ways to mitigate them. That can involve carrying a firearm or having one in their home or it can involve carrying pepper spray…or it can involve neither of those options. We meet people at their point of comfort, because this is information that every single person needs to know.”
“We want people, men and women, to feel comfortable about the instruction they receive,” Schaff relays, “and you’ll find that neither of us make our female students feel silly about asking a question concerning their risks or feel marginalized for wanting to learn how to shoot. Along those lines, we are lucky to have Cassie Redden working
Redden is an NRA Certified Instructor. Interestingly, women make up less than eight percent of all NRA-certified firearms instructors. (She holds other relevant certifications from the NRA as well.) Copp says that women have usually not grown up with guns to the extent that many men have, meaning that the first thing the team recommends is for them to take a gun safety class. “Redden brings a whole different perspective to our programs,” Copp says. “Sometimes she really bridges the gaps for students who may feel more comfortable with a female instructor, but in all cases, she wants to make the student feel more comfortable with the firearm. She also offers very valuable support to the business. I agree with Eric. We are so very, very lucky to have her on the team.”
Rounding out the team is one additional very important member: Triton the Safety Dog. Triton, a rambunctious and friendly lab of not quite two years, lends his name to the business and serves as its official mascot. Copp and Schaff often aid Trition with the creation of Triton’s safety tips (which will be posted on their social media), and the “good pup” (as Schaff calls him) will almost certainly be a part of future instructional programs, many of which are offered at customers’ places of business, on campuses, and at other locations where a little “puppy love” can help break the ice during difficult conversations.
Triton is a business that is unique in the fact that truly anyone reading this is a potential customer. To keep up with their class offerings, “like” them on Facebook. To learn how you can book a training class for your office, civic club, or community organization, call 540-974-0608.