(VA) Parks and Recreation hosts gun safety class


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Drizzt
March 30, 2004, 09:46 AM
Lethal weapons

Parks and Recreation hosts gun safety class

By MARIANNE ALLEN

News Virginian Correspondent

STAUNTON - "All guns are always loaded," says Don Studer, looking me straight in the eye. "I say to my students: The first time you point a gun in my direction, I’ll tell you about it. The second time, I’ll slap you, tell you to put away your gun and go home."

The weighted silence drives home the point: There are no second chances. The first and foremost thing you should know about guns is that they are deadly. "Once that bullet leaves the barrel," Studer says, "it travels at a high rate of speed, and you can’t take it back."

"Refuse to be a Victim" is the name of Studer’s personal safety course, sponsored by the Staunton Recreation Department. The class meets several times a year here in the old white house in Montgomery Hall Park. (Call the Staunton Parks and Recreation Department at 540-332-3945 for more information.)

Why have weapons? Who should have them? What are the odds of an accident? What are the odds of a burglar or a rapist breaking into your home? What do we use guns for? What kind of gun would you buy?

These are questions that are asked - and asked again by society throughout recorded history. In his nine-hour class, Studer addresses many of these questions.

According to National Rifle Association literature, the organization supports the right of all certified American citizens to own guns for self-protection, for hunting game and for sport.

Studer represents the NRA while teaching this course, but when it comes to the law, he insists, he is only speaking from his experience and opinions.

"Anybody that tells you that the police have a right to protect you are wrong," Studer says. "They are required to protect society. It is your responsibility to protect yourself."

In Virginia, it is legal to own and carry a gun, but you must have it in clear sight - other people must be able to see it. You can carry it in a holster strapped to your hip; you can put it in the car on the front seat beside you. If you don’t want everybody to know you have one, you can obtain a concealed-weapons permit.

To become certified to carry a concealed weapon in Augusta County, you have to prove to the sheriff you are "competent." You must show that you have had some training, answer questions attesting to your mental competency and demonstrate that you have not been convicted of a felony or have a protection order against you.

Then, you must get fingerprinted by the police department, undergo a background check and pay $50 to the clerk of the circuit court. The judge looks at a-weapons permit or a reason for being turned down.

One gentleman in my Studer class has never been this close to a gun before and wants to become more aware of them. A woman claims she should have had a gun that day her husband was arrested for domestic assault. A couple that has just moved from Vermont is looking for a social club for people with similar interests.

Made up mostly of moderately dressed American couples from the Shenandoah Valley, the audience is generally an amiable lot. Most of the men wear plaid flannel or jeans. Women are wearing warm socks, pants and sweaters. There is a comfortable feeling of camaraderie about the room.

Studer, an ex-military man, is starched and ready to begin class precisely at 6 p.m. He does not waste time: If you arrive early, you can watch an NRA-sponsored video.

Studer retired from the Army after serving two tours in Vietnam and achieving the rank of master sergeant. For 20 years, until it closed recently, he worked in sales for Hassett, an outdoor sporting goods store in Waynesboro.

A proud gun owner (he won’t reveal the type or number he owns due to security concerns), he is well read on all aspects of gun ownership from safety and self-protection to the possibilities of competition. He mentors a group of 4-H kids in air rifle techniques. Studer picks up a long sleek 12-gauge shotgun, impressive because it sports an after-market pistol grip instead of a stock. Most of the students have not seen anything like it. He points it toward the darkened glass pane in the heavy oak door and presses a button that activates the laser beam so the students can see where a bullet would go if the trigger is pulled. He is demonstrating what to do as a secondary means of self-protection after alerting the intruder that you are there and have a gun.

Primarily, he just likes the mechanics of the weapon and the concentration it demands. He especially finds it relaxing to spend a few hours a week on the range engaged in firing a weapon, an activity he strongly recommends to all who own guns.

"You’re out there looking through a sight, and that’s the only thing you see. You really focus," he says. "It’s just so relaxing. Takes the place of a psychiatrist."

The students actually can feel the intensity of how much he likes target shooting.

"And you don’t have to get the shots all in a tight little circle," he says, putting down the gun and holding up a white sheet of paper against his chest. "You just have to keep shooting somewhere in this region." He makes circles around the imaginary target on his chest.

The first rule of any gunfight is to make up your mind to stop what is happening. Stop the burglar approaching you. Stop the stranger from invading your space. You do that by pointing the gun at the center of the body.

The thoracic area of the human body contains most of its vital organs - the lungs and heart, the liver and kidneys. "If you keep shooting and nothing’s happening, you can assume he has on a bullet-proof vest." Struder recommends shooting at the pelvic region next in hopes of shattering a bone that will bring the assailant down.

A man in the audience asks if it makes a difference which bullet you use. Studer’s eyes widen. "Yes and no." He holds up two brass bullets, one much smaller than the other. The special design of the small .22-caliber bullet (a reference to the circumference) makes it penetrate the body and travel through it. He tells us that here is a woman in the Yukon who shoots polar bears in the eye with a .22 and kills them dead.

The larger bullet is designed to explode when it encounters water, a substance that constitutes 75 percent of the human body. When it hits the body, it sprays outward, making more of a mess, more holes.

"Don’t pull the trigger unless you have your target in sight and you are aware of everything around the target," the instructor says. The most important thing is to know and understand the irreversible consequences of pulling a trigger. "There is no rewind. This is not an action movie." He says gravely, "You and a jury must believe that you are in danger of substantial bodily harm or death.

"Once that bullet leaves the barrel, it travels at a high rate of speed - faster than you or I could ever run." He mocks a run position, looking more like Popeye without the pipe doing an ad for a baseball team than a man trying to outrun a bullet. The students laugh nervously thinking about what it might be like to be on the wrong end of a gun. Studer has repeated something he said earlier, but in a different context. Hmm. This guy may be funny, but he’s dead serious.

http://www.newsvirginian.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WNV%2FMGArticle%2FWNV_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031774563995&path=!news!localnews

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Poodleshooter
March 30, 2004, 09:55 AM
Sounds good. The article has inaccuracies,but is generally amiable in tone. It's typical around here to have "Refuse to be a Victim" classes in government buildings. Locally, I believe that the police and our club instructors used to host them in county school facilities.
It's still pretty sensible in west-central VA.

JohnBT
March 30, 2004, 11:27 AM
Nice article. I didn't know they'd started fingerprinting applicants(in '97, I looked it up.)

John...my 2nd cousin was the county sheriff a long time ago.

P.S. - If you're ever in the area it's pronounced Stan-tun or Stant-un.

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