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COMMUNITY VOICE

Firearms training, safety could result in fewer accidents

Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 12:01 am

This note is in response to the letter from Geoffrey Wheeler, who recently addressed the topic of firearms education in our schools. Wheeler took the position that it was inappropriate, and that as an urban American he found no connection or any need for such.

This touched a nerve with me because I’ve long thought that our schools are doing the nation’s youth a disservice by not exposing them to basic firearms handling and safety lessons, and so I feel the need to respond. The kids who are injured or killed accidentally (this is not to address those murdered by evil psychopaths, gangsters or the like) typically are injured because someone didn’t know what they were doing.

In my experience in the shooting sports, danger comes when an ignorant human and a firearm come together unexpectedly. I don’t know why that is, but those who should stay furthest from an unknown firearm are the most likely to pick it up and point it at their friend. I’ve seen it repeatedly with adults.

But this is a chance for a reasonable conversation. Wheeler agrees that he would need to have a firearm for hunting, except that he doesn’t hunt, and so he doesn’t need one. Further, he doesn’t need training on safe handling, and he puts aside his claim to the fundamental human right to keep and bear arms and thus defend himself and his family.

And this is fine. This is what America is about – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as far as that can go before it infringes on someone else’s rights. I have no issue with his position at all and appreciate his agreement that had he grown up a rural resident or hunter, he might feel differently. The ability to feed your family is a powerful right.

Hunting is not the only reason to bear arms. Target shooting can keep a shooter active, challenged and social into old age. Self-defense is far more effective with a firearm. We all hope we never need it, but many people do, and more people will as our culture gives way to the depravity and godlessness that we’ve encouraged and glorified for decades in our media.

A final reason is defense of country from all threats. As a youth in a better time and place I was taught that the right of the people to keep and bear arms would not be infringed and was, in fact, the fourth check and balance in the government of our country.

But the point of firearms education in schools is, of course, not to teach kids to be shooters or killers — parents themselves do this when they spend $50-60 on video games glorifying gratuitous and horrific acts. It seems the kids who get up at 5 a.m. to go deer hunting with their dad and only see a bunch of squirrels playing in the woods are way ahead in this area. All day with the gun and not a shot fired. It is disappointing, but formative in the traits of patience and appreciation for nature. It helps build a peaceful mind when you can’t move or talk for hours on end and must instead immerse yourself in the natural world.

Rather, a competent instructor would walk them through this lesson: Here are the primary parts of the gun and here’s how it works. Touch it, feel it.

Satisfy your curiosity. Respect it. Here’s what you don’t do — you don’t ever point it at anything you don’t plan to shoot. You don’t ever put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. You treat every gun like it’s loaded even if you know it’s not. If you find one, you take it to an adult immediately, following the first three rules. If you see someone carrying a gun who doesn’t look like they should be, or if you are at your friend’s house and he pulls out a gun he shouldn’t have, you do this:

1. Don’t say a word, just turn around and leave.

2. Don’t run, but walk fast. Running may startle him.

3. Get around a corner as soon as possible so he can’t see you.

4. Don’t get blocked in, go straight to the adults and tell them.

5. Stay out of sight until it’s over. If you can’t get out of sight, get far away.

The whole point would be to give unfamiliar kids some perspective and keep them from injuring themselves or others if they encounter a firearm. This is no different from learning to change a tire, or to swim, or to start a fire, or to perform first aid, or to run from strangers, or to avoid STDs or other things that might make up a very small part of many people’s lives, but which can materially improve the outcome of unexpected situations with a small amount of training.

Teaching an urban kid gun safety is about the same, really, as teaching a rural kid about how to safely cross a busy urban intersection. It’s about equipping him to survive something that he may encounter occasionally, which there is no reason to fear. And both urban and rural kids could probably benefit from a refresher on intersection crossing and gun safety.

For kids who are interested in actual shooting, further training is available from 4H, AIM, BSA and other youth organizations. The training applicable to schools would be aimed at safety rather than skill — and in my opinion, it should be an annual half-hour refresher from kindergarten through middle school, probably by the local resource officer, DNR agent or other credible volunteer.

Thank you for your reasonable stance, Mr. Wheeler, and I hope you find mine to be reasonable as well.

This next part is not directed to Wheeler, but to the general readership.

There is a concerted attack on our liberties going on right now. I hear again and again that our Constitution is old and obsolete, and that we don’t need these rights, and the Second Amendment only covers hunting — though hunting is not mentioned, but security is. I just ask you this — if this right is old and obsolete, why is our government trying so hard to take it from us? It is the right that ensures we keep the rest of our rights.

Beware the slippery slope, and please support liberty whenever you have the chance, even if you don’t personally intend to exercise it. The right to keep and bear arms is the right that ensures our other rights, and our country will be a much different place than the great nation it has been without them. It doesn’t take long, please go read our Bill of Rights and see if you really disagree with them. Are they really obsolete? Or are they really the foundation of everything you believe and value in our country?

So rights are one half — the other half is morality. Take a stand in your family and your community for what you know to be right. And thank you for my opportunity to take part in this conversation (First Amendment).

Jim Thomas is a resident of Spencerville.