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Scott Rall: More important than ever

BY SCOTT RALL The Globe outdoors columnist School safety, gun violence, gun control and a whole host of other gun-related issues have been in the news as of late. School shootings are certainly a crisis, and the answer to addressing these importa...

BY SCOTT RALL

The Globe outdoors columnist

School safety, gun violence, gun control and a whole host of other gun-related issues have been in the news as of late.  School shootings are certainly a crisis, and the answer to addressing these important issues is not going to be found overnight.

The answers are diverse and difficult to find, target and successfully conquer. What I do know is that when kids and guns find themselves in the same place, a great place to start is with a concrete understanding of gun safety.

I have been a volunteer firearms safety instructor in Worthington for over 20 years.  I just got my little gift of a small decorative box from the DNR a few months back for my years of service. I have always been of the opinion that every youth should take this vitally important program.  Many kids that do will grow up to be sportsmen and sportswomen who spend their days in the field chasing roosters, deer or one of the numerous other opportunities that an outdoor lifestyle has to offer.

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If your child is never going to be this type of outdoor person, that in no way eliminates their need to be educated on how firearms should be handled. Even if that young person chooses not to own or use a gun, they will no doubt be exposed to situations over their lifetimes where guns are present and, in many cases, discharged.  This might be at targets in a friend’s back yard or at a shooting range where their friends are competing in a high school trap league.

Firearms are owned by millions in the United States. This is unlikely to change, and kids need the education as to how to address situations as they arise.

Firearms safety training has been required in Minnesota for decades. This important training has led to dramatic reductions in firearms-related accidents over that same period. Years ago, there could be multiple deaths during the deer firearms season alone.

More than 400,000 people hunt deer in Minnesota.  Today that number has been reduced to zero in most years and single digits when they do occur. Recreation shooting like target or trap shooting are very safe pastimes and more and more youth are participating.

It all starts with the local program of firearms safety. The Worthington area program has 10 committed volunteers and starts with the youths successfully completing a 12-hour online class that can be accessed at huntercourse.com.

The course teaches the nuts and bolts about hunting regulations, sportsmanship, licensing and the different type of firearm actions and parts of a firearm. An example would be a bolt action or a pump action rifle and what the muzzle is and where the safety is located.

Once the 12-hour class is completed and the student successfully passes the final exam, he or she then needs to attend the local range day.  This is where they get an afternoon of hands-on training with all of the different kinds of firearms.

We have one-on-one instruction as kids move through the paces of shooting trap and target shooting a .22 rifle. The instructors cover the basics of archery, and each youth shoots about 40 arrows. They get the actual use of a tree stand.  

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This is actually where many of the hunting fatalities happen.  An older gentleman falls out of a tree stand and dies and this makes the stat of a hunting related death. It is a death, for sure, but when you read the stat without the explanation of the cause, it is implied that the death was gun-related even when it is not.

I just visited with the new conservation officer for our area this morning, Andrew Dirks.  He is a cool young man in his 30s with three years on the CO job after a stint in the Marine Corps as a MP and with law enforcement training at our very own Minnesota West Community College. He will spend about an hour with the group.

I love watching the kids interact with this guy. Every youth makes an introduction and shakes his hand as he leaves. I think a positive interaction with law enforcement is important.

The day is filled up and the participants have a really good time.  Parents are encouraged to stay and watch over the course of the afternoon. Mom and Dad can learn new things as well.

The range day for this year is the same as past years.  The range day is always the first Saturday in May and is held at the Worthington Gun Club, located north of Worthington one mile on Highway 59.

The first Saturday in May 2018 is May 5. No pre-registration is required.  All the youth needs to bring is proof of passing the online final exam.

Nobles County Pheasants Forever is covering the registration fees again this year, so there is no cost to attend the range day curriculum. Please get your child properly educated about proper gun safety. It is important now and later.

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WORTHINGTON – Injuries and fouls plagued the Worthington Trojans girl’s basketball team in a Big South Conference contest against stalwart St. Peter on Friday night. The Saints defeated the Trojans 74-53.
WORTHINGTON – The top 10 teams in Minnesota Class A high school gymnastics will be in Worthington on Saturday (Jan. 28) for the state True Team meet. Participating teams are Becker, Benson, Big Lake, Byron, Detroit Lakes, Mankato West, Melrose, New London-Spicer, St. Peter, and Worthington.
Tom Goehle, son of legendary coach Hugo Goehle, was once a star athlete at Hills-Beaver Creek High School. Now he gives back through coaching and his involvement in Fellowship of Christian Athletes.