Lessons on gun safety could help save lives

The subject of gun control has been a hot-button issue sure to flare the passions of people on both sides of the argument.

But no matter what your personal belief about guns happens to be, I think we can all agree that they’re not going away anytime soon. Since they are potentially deadly weapons, it is extremely important that people understand how to operate one of these weapons safely, even if you never plan on owning a gun.

Before Tuesday, Feb. 16, I had never even held a gun, much less fired one.

However, since I knew it’s something I was bound to see sometime in my life, I decided that it would be smart to learn how to operate one. I figured that if I were ever in a situation in which I’d need to use one, I could at least know how to fire it in the least dangerous way possible to myself and those around me.

Luckily, the Oregon State University Pistol Club offers certification lessons for just $5 and an hour of your time. The club meets every Tuesday and Saturday, with training beginning at 6 p.m. and the range opening between 7 p.m. and 7:30.

Jordan Jones, the head coach of the Pistol Team and a staff member of the college of engineering, was the one conducting my training, and said that the Pistol Club’s main goal is to educate students about the importance of gun safety.

“The main thing we want people to take away from this is the safety aspect of it,” said Jones, who has been shooting since his time in the Boy Scouts. “Of course we want people to try it, enjoy it, have fun, but the safety training for firearms is our main goal.”

The OSU firing range is limited to .22-caliber pistols. Before the training started, I had to read a short booklet outlining the important rules of handling a .22 pistol (though the rules apply to any gun). The first thing I learned, and which was reiterated several times during my training were the three main rules of gun safety:

Always point the gun in a safe direction.

The gun must be unloaded unless it’s being used, and always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.

I was made to repeat these rules at random times during training until I had memorized them.

The next most-important rules were what to do in the case of a cease-fire. Jones said that although a cease-fire is rare, it’s a crucial piece of gun-safety knowledge. Potential reasons for a cease-fire would be any kind of emergency in which it would be essential that everyone stop shooting immediately, like a medical emergency, power outage or natural disaster. If someone calls a cease-fire in the range, everyone must stop shooting, put their pistols on the bench, step away from the guns, and repeat the command to make sure everyone in the range has heard it.

After the initial talk about safety features, I was given a quick quiz to make sure I knew the safety features, and then I got to check out one of the pistols. I started out with plastic inert dummy rounds, so I could practice my stance and holding the gun before there was any actual ammunition in the magazine. Once I had shown that I could successfully load, unload, and fire the pistol, the range was opened and I was given a box of bullets.

At first I was apprehensive about firing the pistol, but after a few shots, I got more comfortable, which, as Jones pointed out, is the reason the Pistol Club holds its training sessions.

It’s important to note that “among children, the majority of unintentional shooting deaths […] occur when children are playing with a loaded gun in their parents’ absence,” according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. This simply stresses how critical it is that people learn how to safely handle a gun, preferably at as young an age as possible.

If you have never fired a gun before, and are willing to give it a shot (pun intended), I highly recommend going through the Pistol Club’s training process.

You never know—it could save a life.

“Most people are going to come into contact with a gun at some point in their life,” said Jones as he closed up the range at the end of the night. “They should at least know how to be safe with it.”

The opinions expressed in Keating’s column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Barometer staff.

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