Don’t point a gun at someone you don’t intend to shoot.
That may seem like a pretty obvious rule, but it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. The instructors at North Whidbey Sportsmen’s Club will tell you that you need to consider not just the person in front on you, but who might be on the other side of any walls or structures and what lies beyond that and maybe even beyond that.
The classes taught at the sportsmen’s club follow a National Rifle Association curriculum, which makes a point of remaining apolitical.
The classes cover a lot of ground and are always interesting, but “the top emphasis, time and again, in every class is safety,” said instructor John Hellmann.
Gun accidents aren’t a growing problem in Island County. From 2010 to 2015, five people in the county were hospitalized for unintentional injury due to firearms. Nobody was accidentally killed during a period from 2007 to 2016; a total of 70 people died from self-inflicted wounds and five from homicides, according to statistics from Island County Public Health.
Yet instructors like Hellmann aim to make accidental firearm injuries a non-existent problem.
In fact, Hellmann said everyone should have some basic understanding of guns. While a family may not have firearms, one of the children may very well come into contact with them at another home.
Classes at the club are one good way to get some clear information and to demystify guns — which hopefully will help prevent people from making bad decisions, he said.
“People come to understand it’s a tool with a certain function,” he said. “That’s really all it is. It’s an inanimate object.”
The classes aren’t cursory.
The beginning class is “basic pistol shooting.” Hellmann said the class, for example, takes up three hours on a Friday and all day Saturday. The students spend about four to five hours on the range.
In “home firearm safety,” the instructors present the class with different kinds of guns and explains how to handle them safely. The day-long class doesn’t have any range time.
“Basic rifle shooting” covers how rifles work, how to handle them, what the different shooting positions are and, of course, safety.
“Personal protection in the home” is about how to handle scenarios in which an intruder or intruders come into a person’s house. Part of the class is taught by an attorney.
The basic lesson, Hellmann said, is to find every way possible not to shoot someone before pulling the trigger.
“Give that person an opportunity to leave and no one gets hurt,” he said.
Another class is “personal protection outside the home.” It covers concealed weapons and different tactics in the event of a live shooter.
Hellmann said he’s had women who were victims of domestic violence take classes, as well as those who are afraid to handle guns. In February, a female instructor is going to teach the first all-women class.
• For information about the club and classes, go to www.northwhidbeysportsmen.org, email NWSA.Training@gmail.com or call Hellmann at 360-675-8397.