People tend to see objects - tools - as a solution to everything. Have the right tool and you're good to go. When discussing these issues with your community, you need to let them know that the primary tool for self protection is the standard issue human brain. It all starts there, and too often the brain is neglected. Many of the people I talk with don't have even a basic understanding of situational awareness. In other words, they go through life in, as the late Col. Jeff Cooper described it, Condition White. They are unaware of their surroundings and are unprepared for what happens. They don't anticipate, they don't analyze and they don't make adjustments to their activities in response to danger signals that are presented. If someone is concerned about their own personal safety, the first thing you should do is train them in awareness and responsiveness to their environment. Avoidance of a problem is the easiest win over the bad things that can happen.
People who opt-out of gun ownership might consider such things as pepper spray, electronic control devices or unarmed self defense techniques. Actually, I'm an advocate for the use of all of them in the proper circumstances. That, of course, requires a lot of training. Most people don't want to devote that much time, energy or even thought to the subject, so some guidance from you can either encourage or discourage such choices.
The big question is, how much do you know about the proper non-law enforcement use of such products or techniques? The rules are different for ordinary folks, as are the tools. Someone in your organization should be knowledgeable and prepared to offer training to the people who want to choose these alternatives. At the very least, once you have encouraged them to be trained, you need to be able to refer them to someone qualified to do the training, even if it is a private provider.
But, I Want A Gun
What if the person wants to go ahead with buying a gun? From this point, there are two paths to follow. From the agency standpoint, it would be wise to have a policy in place that is acceptable to all concerned. Often the knee-jerk reaction is Hell no! But consider this, millions of people in this country own guns. At the rate we're going, many more are becoming gun owners every day. I, for one, would rather that people make informed decisions about gun ownership.
I think that agencies that aren't responsive to the public demand leave the door wide open for ignorance and mistakes by the people they are trying to serve. The agency should have information available about applicable gun laws, firearms safety and available training resources. In addition to training people in firearms safety, marksmanship and the proper use of deadly force, I spend quite a bit of time helping armed citizens learn how to safely interact with law enforcement personnel. I have also spent time trying to help cops try to learn how to safely interact with lawfully armed citizens. It would be a service to your community to willingly discuss such issues with people who are, or want to be, armed. I know that the police generally see the dark side of firearms misuse, accidents and criminal behavior. But there are a lot of honest people out there that just want to do the right thing. This is where your department can make friends in the community, as well as improve safety and voluntary compliance with the law.
As individual officers, you may be able to offer personal opinions that would not be appropriate coming from your agency. Your department may have a policy that they won't endorse or recommend private providers of services or specific brands or products. So be it. But individual officers are going to be approached in informal situations where their personal expertise is appreciated and valued. If you have such expertise, that's good. If you don't, please say so, and be prepared to refer the person to someone who does. One of the frustrating things about my line of work is that I often have to correct misinformation or bad advice that people have received, even from well-meaning people who are seriously trying to help. The word of a police officer in such matters carries a lot of weight. Please weigh your words carefully.