Firearms safety in the technology ageWORTHINGTON — When it comes to smart phones, iPads, and other high-tech devices, I am the first to admit I am way behind the curve. When the commercial comes on the television and the CEO of Sprint says people do far more with their phones than just talk, I say to myself, “That is really all I do with my phone.”
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — When it comes to smart phones, iPads, and other high-tech devices, I am the first to admit I am way behind the curve. When the commercial comes on the television and the CEO of Sprint says people do far more with their phones than just talk, I say to myself, “That is really all I do with my phone.”
Even though I am not a big user of the biggest, fastest and leading-edge technology gadgets available, I realize the rest of the world probably is. Even if I am not on the leading edge of these issues, I realize if you want to stay current, you need to at least have a basic understanding and follow with an open mind.
One of the things I have been involved with for about 15 years, which has not changed much during that time, is the Firearms Safety Program. This is the class kids and adults are required to take in order to receive a Hunter’s Safety Certificate. This is the pre-curser to being able to purchase a hunting license. The program has been credited with lowering the incidents of hunting accidents and hunting fatalities to the lowest rate in recorded history.
One fact that many people do not understand is just how safe hunting is. Participation in any organized sports activity can and does result in a much higher rate of serious injury. Statistics show there are far more injuries playing golf per 1,000 participants than to individuals participating in hunting and recreational shooting. When you compare the numbers to football and other, more physical sports, hunting barely makes the list.
I have always said I think every child should take Firearms Safety even if there is no intention of hunting in the future. Just knowing what is safe and what is not when it comes to firearms is valuable education. A person who has completed a Firearms Safety program will then know what to do when they are in a situation when a firearm is present.
Trying to protect your child by having no exposure to these programs and the firearms present at them are a defeating thought process. It is a fact — whether you like it or not, that there are many guns in the United States. It is my hope that every child will know right from wrong when to comes to handling firearms — or at least know what to do if they find themselves in a situation where a firearm is present. Education related to these issues can be lifesaving.
In the past, the local Firearms safety program consisted of six classes that each lasted two hours. At the completion of the classroom portion of the program, participants are given a written test and are required to achieve a passing score of 75 percent. Those who pass the test are then required to pass a live-fire exercise where each participant actually shoots 10 rounds through a small .22-caliber rifle. They must display proper firearms safety and, upon completion, receive their certificate.
As times change, it has become clear that our Firearms Safety program has to change with them. Kids and parents have many competing interests these days. Committing six nights to take classes and another few hours in the field can be more than some students are willing to invest in if their interest in hunting or shooting is not strong. Many parents are either unwilling or unable to drive the child to seven different activities.
My kids are adults now, but I can certainly remember the busing schedule we had trying to get everyone to where they needed to be on time. Mom went one direction and I went another. Imagine how much harder this is in a one-parent home. It has become a limiting factor in the number of kids entering the sport of hunting and shooting and we are making changes to the program in order to address some of these challenges.
Starting this year, we are going to an online classroom program. When I heard these changes were coming, I wondered how in the world we could teach this program with an online program. I was very hesitant. When I researched these changes further, my concerns where alleviated.
With the move to an online classroom program, the range day portion of the class is now being expanded from 1 to 2 hour activity to a 6 to 8 hour activity. The field day will now allow for a much more in-depth interaction with those taking the class. The field is where these kids get to actually handle a real firearm in an outdoor setting (no ammunition). Activities on the range day include the chance to go on a practice hunt (no ammunition).
We will have much more opportunity to actually display proper gun handling. We can practice crossing fences and other obstacles. The expanded field day is a great addition to the program.With the expansion of the range day, the move to an online classroom portion is now a change I can support and get my head around.
There will be no traditional classroom program in Worthington starting this year. Anyone who wants a Firearms Safety certificate will now need to do the following: log on to www.hunterexam.com.
This takes you to the page where you will register for the online class. It walks you interactively through the class and has quizzes and tests that you will need to pass before you can move to the next section. When you have completed all of the sections — this should take about 12 hours — you then pay for the class and print out a course completion certificate. This is NOT a Firearms Safety certificate. This certificate is your pass to register for our all-day range day, which is tentatively scheduled for the first Saturday in May.
In the future, this new method will allow students all year to complete the online portion at their leisure. It reduces the effort required by mom and dad and allows the instructors a better and more in-depth opportunity to teach real-life gun handling in the field.
There is only one drawback to this new method that I can see, and that is the cost. In the past the cost was $8. The online portion of the class is now about $25, and the range day will stay at the $8. It is the hope of mine and other instructors that the convenience of the new method can outweigh the added cost. We will be notifying the schools monthly of the changes starting this month.
Please share this information with your friends and neighbors. It will be very disappointing next fall if we have 30 kids who want to go hunting and can’t because they missed this important information. We will do our very best to distribute information regarding these changes, but there is bound to be some bumps in the road as we make the transition to an online class.
As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or need more information.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.