By Breanne Massey
Parents, grandparents and teachers proudly gathered around as their children, grandchildren and neighbours were recognized for their efforts to learn about safety.
The Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club sponsored a 12-week air rifle program that concluded with nearly 30 participants receiving a certificate of completion in firearm safety at the Invermere Community Hall on Tuesday, March 29th.
The air rifle program aims to teach children between the ages of four and 14 years old about firearm safety ranging from information on handling, carrying, firing, storing, transporting and displaying weapons.
Its an informational program for the kids about how to be safe around firearms and not to touch them without an adult around and that theyre not toys because we keep seeing too many of these kids picking up firearms and (accidentally) shooting their friends or their parents over the years, said Dan McLaughlin, Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club volunteer and instructor.
The Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club started offering this course for children over 10 years ago. It has grown in popularity over the years with an average attendance of 20 participants in each class.
The air rifle program itself is actually a program for kids to understand that firearms of any kind can be dangerous and not to point a firearm in any unsafe direction like towards people or houses, Mr. McLaughlin explained. We, as adults, dont remember what it was like to be curious and firearms are quite a dangerous area so were trying to educate our youth about (the importance of having supervision and proper firearm handling procedures).
Mr. McLaughlin believes this is a positive development for the community.
Some of the kids are fairly young, but maybe if we start them off young, maybe they wont pick up a firearm and shoot somebody with it, he explained. I tell parents if they bring a child under six, then they have to help supervise them and set them up and a lot of the parents dont mind that the youngest girl (Emma) was four and her grandfather who has been handling firearms for a long time came and set her up it was actually quality time for him with her and she got right into it.
In addition, Mr. McLaughlin encourages the older students from the program to offer support and advice to the younger students.
A lot of them dont mind its almost like a mentoring program because a lot of the older kids understand that firearms are dangerous and we need to teach the younger ones, he said. Its pretty cool.
He added that most of the parents who choose to bring their children to the program dont own firearms and dont want firearms around their house, but instead encourage their children to be informed and make good decisions.
Christine Shaw and her son, Ty Lightfoot, 6, began attending the air rifle program to learn about gun safety. Ty enjoyed trying to hit the targets and told his mother that he would be willing to attend. When asked what he learned from the course, Ty replied: Never look down the barrel.
Ms. Shaw believes the experience is a life-changing one for her son.
He learned about gun safety, he learned to be patient and wait for others, he learned about rules and he learned how to shoot well, she explained. It was a fantastic program I couldnt believe what a good shot my son was. He was actually shooting better than I was.
The Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club has been offering conservation-minded education and safety information to the Columbia Valley community for years. It is affiliated with the BC Wildlife Federation, which has 30,000 members, including more than 200 local members in the Columbia Valley.
Firearms are dangerous and we have to educate people about them, concluded Mr. McLaughlin. We teach our kids how to swim because theres water here. We teach our kids not to touch fire because its hot and youll get hurt, so if we educate our kids not to touch firearms or to have supervision, then theyll be safer. Ignoring the fact that firearms are in our community doesnt really make our kids any safer.
For more information, visit http://lwdrodgun.com.