(MN) Firearms safety, hunting protocol is serious business


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Drizzt
May 8, 2005, 10:50 PM
Firearms safety, hunting protocol is serious business

By Mike Shaughnessy
Sun Newspapers
(Created 5/5/2005 10:02:43 AM)

“Farmer Mark’s kind of crabby today,” Fran Szczesniak cautioned.

Busy putting up hay in the barn, Farmer Mark was in no mood to indulge a group of giggling boys looking for permission to hunt on his land.

OK, he was really in a lecture room at McGuire Junior High in Lakeville, not a barn. But his pitchfork was real.

Farmer Mark – in real life, firearms safety instructor Mark Brletich of the Dakota County Gun Club – showed the boys a couple of signs on his property that had been shot up by irresponsible hunters. He had the boys pegged as people who had little respect for property rights and was ready to send them on their way.

The boys, keeping a safe distance from the pitchfork, offered to pay for new signs. Finally, Farmer Mark relented and gave them permission to hunt on his land.

And so went the continuing education of a new group of hunters. Graduation day of another firearms safety training course in Lakeville was last week. Each graduate left with a hunter safety certificate and, the instructors hoped, a sense of how to go about it the right way.

The courses are a minimum of 12 hours of classroom and field training where students learn to handle firearms and people. The just-completed Lakeville course included a field day April 23 in which students got to fire on a rifle range and went through several simulated shoot/don’t shoot situations.

In Minnesota, anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979, must have a firearms safety certificate in order to get a hunting license. The requirement isn’t the same in every state; anyone born in 1949 or later who wants to hunt in Colorado must have a firearms safety certificate.

Minnesota is on pace to award its 1 millionth firearms safety certificate sometime this year.

“The program you just finished is essentially kindergarten for firearms safety,” Szczesniak, also one of the Dakota County Gun Club instructors, told the students last week. “You have to go out and find opportunities [for continuing hunting education]. That’s your graduate school.”

In the Dakota County courses, instructors seen an opportunity to train a generation in firearms safety.

“Probably 75 percent of our students are kids, 18 and under,” said lead instructor John Miller. “And about 15 percent of them are female.”

“We used to have classes that had no girls,” Szczesniak said.

The vast majority of students take the course so they can hunt or participate in target shooting. But some just want to know how to handle a firearm should the need ever arise – for instance, if a person is babysitting in a home where firearms are stored. According to Miller, 50 percent of homes in the United States have firearms.

The instructors said they believe the safety message is getting across, but it still needs to be reinforced with new hunters. In 2004, 10 of the 16 accidental shootings of hunters that were reported to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources involved people who were 21 or younger. But, for the second time in four years, Minnesota did not have a hunting fatality.

That of course does not include a November incident in Wisconsin where six people were killed in an apparent dispute over hunting rights. A St. Paul man faces trial for six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

That’s one reason, the instructors said, it’s just as important for hunters to know how to treat other people as it is to handle their guns correctly.

The next firearms safety course in Lakeville will begin in early August. The Dakota County Gun Club instructors say courses tend to fill quickly and sometimes have waiting lists, so early registration is recommended. More information is available from the Lakeville Parks and Recreation office (952-985-4600) or the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Web site (www.dnr.state.mn.us).

http://www.mnsun.com/story.asp?city=Rosemount&story=156975

That's an interesting addition to the firearms course, learning how to handle people. Sounds like a good call.

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