SCOTT RALL COLUMN: Gun safety: Don't ask why, just do it
WORTHINGTON -- Dad doesn't hunt, mom wouldn't even hold a gun and junior has no interest, why on earth would I send my child to a firearms safety training program?
What a great question and one I would like to take a few paragraphs to answer.
About 11 percent of the population in North America describes themselves as active hunters. Hunter numbers were on the decline over the past few decades and that trend has reversed as of late. The reason for this reversal has many possible explanations, but the one I think has the most merit is the growth of recreational shooting and mentor programs across the United States.
With the surge in popularity of recreational shooting sports and mentor programs, more and more young people are being exposed to this fun and challenging outdoor experience.
The more people who experience this shooting exercise firsthand and get comfortable with a firearm in their hands, the more likely they might be to take up hunting. High school trap teams are exploding in numbers across Minnesota and across the nation. Worthington has a very successful and self-sufficient program and all kids who qualify by age should check it out.
Hunters have to take a certified Hunters Safety Course in order to buy a hunting license in most states. Older hunters were grandfathered in before the new rules took place. For the most part, all individuals born after December 1979 and are 12 years of age or older will need to take a safety training course.
I have taught this Basic Firearms safety course since my kids -- now 27 years old --were 12 and took it themselves. There have been more than 700 participants in that time in the little town of Worthington. With the surge in popularity of recreational shooting sports, more and more young people are being exposed to this fun and challenging outdoor experience.
So, back to why you should enroll your child in a firearms safety program. Shooting sports and hunting has been the primary driver of who participated in the past. Who thinks the number of guns in North America is going to decline measurably in the future? How many of you think the surge in gun sales will continue as long as there is a threat of more and more gun control laws on law abiding citizens?
I think the latter is far more likely. What this means is the average household will house more guns, not less in the future.
So, ask yourself these questions. Where does your child go to play? Can you watch them every minute of every day? Can you control every environment they might find themselves in? The answer to these questions is absolutely no.
What can you do to keep your child safe from harm when you can't be there to watch them? The answer is to educate them so they can make sound decisions on their personal safety when you are not around. Even if your child never intends to shoot a gun, how will they know when others around them are behaving safely or unsafely when a gun is present if they themselves are uneducated and uninformed about guns and gun safety? The answer is they can't.
Making a firearms safety class a mandatory attendance for your child will provide them the knowledge and experience they need to properly handle any situation that might arise if a gun is present. We have drug and alcohol classes. We also have education on sexually transmitted diseases and safe driving techniques, but firearm safety is only taken by about 50 students per year in our local classes. What about the other 500 kids age 12, 13 and 14?
I wish I could have had the ironclad ability to say OK or not OK as to all of the kids my children came across and interacted with in their young lives. I know of no parent who does. Until you do, all you can do is instill the character and values you hold dear and educate your kids to the challenges and hazards they will face in their day-to-day lives.
I grew up a fisherman. I fished every day on my lunch hour during the summer months and at least 12 hours every weekend. I also hunted growing up and used to ride my bicycle out to Lake Ocheda to hunt geese when I was too young to drive. My dad didn't hunt when I was age appropriate and I never developed the father/son desire to hunt.
When my son Brandon was 10 years old he said, "Please take me hunting."
I did and we do so now every chance we get. If your child takes a firearms safety class and has the ability to go hunting, you just might uncover the most satisfying experiences you will ever share with your child.
Outdoor experiences are different than the inside-the-gym kind. Both are unique and special, but when most kids graduate high school they will have played the very last competitive game of that sport for the rest of their lives.
Hunting or recreational shooting with your children and family is something that advancing age does not hinder. Outdoor experiences are just as good when your dad is 80 as they are when your kid is 12. It all starts with a firearms safety certificate.
The firearms safety class in Worthington utilizes online classroom training. You can access the course at huntercourse.com or follow the prompts on the DNR website under the header, hunter safety classes. This is a 12-hour class that the student takes and, when complete, takes and passes a written test.
Upon completion of the test, the student prints a completion certificate and pays the $29 fee. The completion certificate is the ticket to admission to the hands-on range day portion of the class from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 4, at the Worthington Gun Club.
This is where certified instructors will walk through a variety of hands on shooting and hunting scenarios. Participants will shoot rifles, shot guns and archery. Tree stand safety and a whole host of other activities are included. At the end of the range day, students receive the information they need to go home and print out their own firearms safety certificate. This is the only range day in Worthington for 2013, so don't miss it.
It is really neat to see their big smiles and sense of accomplishment, and know these kids are on their way to a safer life, whether they choose to never hunt or plan a life filled with outdoor adventures.
For more information on this program, call me at 360-6027.
Scott Rall is The Daily Globe's outdoor columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.