It’s never too late to learn about gun safety
In the world of adaptive sports and recreation, there’s a genre that allows people who use wheelchairs to compete sideby-side with their able-bodied counterparts — shooting.
Whether it’s competing at the highest level like Oksana Masters, who won the Paralympic gold medal in Beijing earlier this year in the 6-kilometer women’s sitting sprint para biathlon event, or at local shooting events across the country, gun safety is always first and foremost.
Some popular examples of wheelchair shooting sports include trap and skeet shooting, pistol shooting, air rifles and, new to the field, Battle Buddy 3Gun. I personally competed in trapshooting for many years at events hosted by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).
The debate on gun regulations and safety is a hot topic and is once again front-page news after May’s horrific shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Events that have occurred in the past few months have caused me to reflect upon my personal experience with guns in school.
It was October 1970. I was in seventh grade and in the school hallway at my locker. I looked down the hall and saw Dave pull a rifle from his locker. Then, across the hall, Paul pulled a rifle from his locker. Then, I reached into my locker and pulled out a 17-shot semi automatic rifle.
We, along with every other seventh-grade boy proceeded, with guns in tote, to a school bus that took us to a local gun range, where we wrapped up a gun safety course sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
In seventh-grade gym class (boys only), we spent a two-week period on firearms safety. Yes, we had guns in school, and on that Friday at the end of the course, we headed to the range to target shoot and practice safety protocols we had learned. If we passed, we received our state-issued firearms safety certificate.
And guess what? No one shot anyone. I believe teaching the safe handling and respect of firearms is beneficial, regardless of what side of the gun control issue you favor. Many PVA members are enthusiastic firearms owners. I can’t think of a single shooting sports program that doesn’t hold safety as priority one at all of its sponsored events.
The most basic training always includes the four primary rules of gun safety:
1) Treat firearms as if they’re loaded at all times.
2) Never point a firearm at anything you don’t wish to destroy.
3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you have a target in the sights.
4) Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.
Couple this with actual hands-on training, and you have the makings of real firearm safety, — not firearm avoidance, which, unfortunately, is all that most schools in today’s world are willing to consider. Even if kids don’t have guns in their home, there’s a significant chance they will encounter them in their friends’ or relatives’ homes or in some other situation.
Teaching the dangers and proper handling of firearms can help keep kids and their friends safe. I have twin sons who are now 25 years old. When they were 12, I enrolled them in a course. They completed it and both were issued a fir arms safety certificate.
The course, no longer offered in schools, was held at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and taught by instructors from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
My sons and I aren’t hunters, but we have found trapshooting and even a trip to the pistol range are activities in which I can participate on an equal basis. You can debate until you’re blue in the face the potential causes of what’s occurring in today’s world.
From the perspective of shooting sports, if you haven’t tried them, I encourage you to seek out opportunities in your local area and give them a shot.
Stay safe, and enjoy your summer.