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Posted: 2/6/2006 7:09:02 AM EDT

Activist Says Taking Mystery Out of Guns Key to Children's Safety

By Linda McCarty
The Winchester Star


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STEPHENS CITY — When snipers were killing people during October 2002 in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, Nicki Fellenzer's coworkers sometimes asked her to accompany them on errands outside their office building in Vienna.
Nicki Fellenzer, a pro-gun activist and member of the National Guard, says she has made gun safety a priority for her children Sarah, 10, Daniel, 8, and Anna, 16 (not pictured).
(Photos by Rick Foster)


"They know that I carry a gun," said Fellenzer, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon with her at all times.

Fellenzer, 34, keeps a holstered .40-caliber, Glock 23 pistol in her purse.

"It's really small, and it's cute," she said, as she pulled the gun from her purse on the the kitchen table.

Fellenzer and her husband, Wally, have several guns that are kept secure in a safe at their home near Stephens City.

Last week, Fellenzer got those belonging to her and spread them out on the kitchen table, while her 8-year-old son, Daniel, stood beside her.

Fellenzer said she doesn't worry about having guns in the house because she and her husband have taught Daniel and their daughters, Sarah, 10, and Anna, 16, about gun safety.

"The No. 1 rule around this house is that a gun is not a toy," Fellenzer said. "Our children know this and understand it. They are drilled regularly on gun safety."

"What is the No. 1 rule?" she asked Daniel.

"Don't point a gun at anyone you don't intend to shoot," he said.

"And where do you keep your finger, when holding a gun," Fellenzer asked her son.

"Not on the trigger, unless you're ready to shoot," he said.

"Daniel could recite gun rules before he could tie his shoes," Fellenzer said.

Fellenzer believes it's important to teach children gun safety because it takes the mystery out of guns and makes a house more safe.

"Every single person I know who has taught their children about guns have taken the mystery out of them," Fellenzer said, "so that children don't feel like they have to sneak to look at them and hold them."

Fellenzer said, though, that her children know better than to touch one of the guns in the house without asking.

"They never, ever handle one without permission," she said. "If they know they can ask and get to examine a gun, they won't sneak around and get it. They also know that when I tell them that a gun can kill someone, it's not a joke."

But, she said, there is never a weapon that is reachable when other children are at their home.

"That's responsible parenting," she said.

Fellenzer said the father of an 8-year-old boy in Germantown, Md., who shot a 7-year-old girl at his day care center on Jan 24, was a prime example of irresponsible parenting.

"There was nothing except responsible-parenting and good supervision that could have prevented it," Fellenzer said

She noted that the father was a convicted felon and, by law, should not have had a weapon in the first place. The father also had the gun in an unlocked storage container on a closet shelf, and his son had unsupervised access to the gun.

"Maryland has a safe-storage law, which means guns have to be in a secure place or secured by a gunlock," Fellenzer said.


Fellenzer said she became interested in weapons in 2001, specifically gun rights, and became an active supporter of the Second Amendment, which says: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

"I was born in the Ukraine," she said, "and we never had the freedoms we have here. I have fully come to realize our Second Amendment rights are what safeguards our freedoms."

Fellenzer had no problem securing a concealed weapon permit because she served four years in the Army and is now a member of the Army National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Co. of the 29th Infantry Division at Fort Belvoir.

"I'm a public affairs specialist," she said. "I do broadcast and print journalism."

Fellenzer's National Guard enlistment took her to Louisiana a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August.

"I was there for the whole month of September with the National Guard," Fellenzer said. "It was really horrifying. You can see the picture of what the hurricane did, but you can't smell the smells of sewage, rot, chemicals, and death. The area looked and smelled like something from a Stephen King novel."

Fellenzer came to the United States with her parents in 1980. "We emigrated to New York City, but my parents then moved to (Philadelphia)," she said.

After graduating from high school in 1989, Fellenzer earned a bachelor's degree in international relations at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1993.

She joined the Army a year later and was stationed in Germany, where she met her husband, who was also stationed there.

"I was a broadcast journalist on the American Forces Network in Frankfurt," Fellenzer said.

Fellenzer was discharged from active duty in 1998 and moved with her husband to Winchester, where she was a news broadcaster at WINC Radio and its sister station, the former WAPP.

Since 2000, she's been a writer with a direct-mailing marketing firm that focuses on politics and is based in Vienna.

Fellenzer is also very active in the political arena, particularly with gun-rights groups, and has written articles for the National Rifle Association and the Woman's Outlook Magazine.

Fellenzer said she also works hard at "dispelling myths circulated by gun-control groups."

"The biggest thing that bothers me about the gun-control groups is that they treat children like they're stupid," Fellenzer said. "My kids are little people, who have been taught how to handle guns correctly. I believe all children should be taught gun safety."




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