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County sheriff voices no objections to local folks packing their own heat

OUTLOOK - A handful of Outlook residents gathered at Outlook Elementary School last night (Monday) to take a stand against problems in their community. The residents were joined by Yakima County Sheriff Ken Irwin and representatives from Northwest Community Action Center.

Irwin spoke to the attendees about the good and the bad that has happened since Standup for Outlook last met. He also encouraged citizens to protect themselves, by carrying a weapon if they have to.

A recent spate of drive-by shootings in the Outlook area has rattled some residents. One man asked Irwin if it was time for him to start packing his own weapon, in response to the numerous shootings in his neighborhood.

"Yes, I believe people should in times like these," Irwin answered. "You have to be able to protect yourself."

Irwin said it is perfectly legal to carry a firearm in the open in the state of Washington, although he cautioned that carrying a weapon also brings with it extra responsibilities.

"You can't shoot the wrong person," he said.

Irwin also warned that although carrying a firearm in the open is legal in Washington, chances are if the police happen to see them, they will ask questions. Thos questions will probably be asked with the officer pointing a weapon at them, he added.

Irwin encouraged the residents to call the sheriff's office if any problems occur, and urged those who choose to arm themselves to be ever remindful of the law.

"We have to be stronger and more determined than they are," Irwin said of the troublemakers causing problems. "You can't let them take away your homes and happiness."

Irwin cautioned that there is a lot of work to do and change will not come overnight, but he believes it will. That belief is strengthened by the knowledge he has good officers, Irwin said.

He also pointed out people like Petra Morales, a Readiness to Learn case manager with Northwest Community Action Center, who organized last night's event. Irwin promised that if people work with her, "You will never be sorry," he said.

The group meets regularly and celebrated reaching three goals the group had set out to accomplish last year. Those goals were forming block watches in Outlook, getting seven street lights installed and implementing a graffiti-removal program.

Also in the past year Morales said the group has helped clean up Outlook by removing garbage and weeds.

The people attending the meeting split into groups to brainstorm new goals for 2011. Some of the ideas included 24-hour police protection, cameras on problem houses and to remove three trailer homes alongside Yakima Valley Highway that many people believe are problems.

Other ideas suggested the community of Outlook hold a community days celebration, have more activities for the youths in Outlook and have more community clean-ups.

Morales said it will take a while to whittle all the suggestions down to three. The next meeting for Stand Up for Outlook is scheduled for Monday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m.

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