Tri-City classes teach firearm fundamentals

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 7, 2013 

KENNEWICK -- Cailin Davey thinks knowledge is power when it comes to guns and staying safe.

That's why on Sunday she took her 11-year-old and 14-year-old sons to a free gun safety class at Kennewick's Ranch & Home.

"It's important people recognize that it's not just gun nuts that think our rights to bear arms are important," the Kennewick woman said.

There are "every-day citizens" walking around the mall or community who want to protect that right, Davey added.

But personal responsibility and safety is also key to gun ownership, which is what prompted Bill Dress, an owner of Ranch & Home, to team up with firearm instructors from Practical Edge Shooting to offer the free classes.

The classes were organized in the aftermath of recent mass shootings, after Dress saw a surge in gun sales at his store and around the country.

"It's definitely played some part in it," Dress said of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and at a mall in Clackamas, Ore. "We want to make sure everybody has the fundamentals of gun safety."

And, Dress said, he believes it's part of the responsibility of a gun retailer to make sure people buying the firearms are property trained.

Dress got together with David Blosser, a police sergeant with 19 years experience who started Practical Edge Shooting in 2006, and decided to offer a couple of free classes at Ranch & Home.

The first classes filled up within minutes because of high interest from the community, so organizers expanded the schedule. Nine classes are now planned -- the next one is Saturday -- but Dress said they'll add more classes if the demand is there.

About 40 people attended Sunday's class, which gave a general overview of a variety of gun safety topics, including how to select the right firearm, proper storage, protecting kids and firearm laws.

"All we care about is ... to give you some tools to keep you safe," Blosser said. "As instructors, we call it the 'don't be stupid stuff.' "

It started with the four basic safety rules:

* All guns should be treated as if they're loaded.

* Never point a gun at anybody you don't intend to shoot.

* Keep your finger off the trigger.

* Always be aware of the target and what's behind it.

People who have firearms in their homes should be concerned about access, kids and theft, he said.

"What scares me is the people who will steal your guns," Blosser said. "It's not you coming into Ranch & Home that's going to hurt anybody, it's the guy who breaks into your home or car and steals it."

When Blosser asked what's the best age to start talking to kids about guns, participants offered a variety of ages -- 10, 12, 14.

But Blosser said if parents are going to have guns, they should start addressing gun safety with children "as soon as possible."

"If you have guns in the house, don't kid yourself into thinking they don't know," he said. "And don't make it the forbidden fruit -- us humans, we've failed that test before."

If kids are interested in firearms, getting them started early so they understand the four safety rules is important.

Unfortunately, just as the gun safety class was ending in Kennewick on Sunday, Franklin County sheriff's deputies were called to a home in the 300 block of May Avenue in Mesa for a report of an accidental shooting.

A 14-year-old boy messing around with a .22-caliber rifle inappropriately ended up shooting his 15-year-old brother in the abdomen, said sheriff's Cpl. Gordon Thomasson.

The older teen was taken to a local hospital and was in stable condition Sunday evening, Thomasson said.

After the gun safety class was done, participants got a chance to talk to Blosser and the other firearm instructors about the hands-on training classes offered by Practical Edge Shooting. The Kennewick company has eight instructors and offers more than 30 classes a year.

Blosser also mentioned that many of the instructors are competitive shooters and they're looking at starting a junior shooting team. After class, Davey said the idea of having her two sons on the junior shooting team interests her because it could be a family activity.

The Kennewick woman said her sons have been around guns and their father has taken them to the range, but it never hurts to have a refresher course on safety. Morgan Hanson, Davey's 11-year-old son, said he's not scared around guns because he knows how to use them safely.

Anyone interested in signing up for the free gun safety classes can call 737-1996 or go to the customer service department at the Kennewick Ranch & Home store, 845 N. Columbia Center Blvd.

First-time gun owners and seasoned veterans could all benefit from the class, Dresser said, especially since it's free and only takes a couple of hours of time.

"If it can help somebody be safe, why wouldn't you?" he asked.

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