Safety's first at firearms course

 Don Ortgies coaches the shooting of 10-year-old Spencer Neumiller of Coupeville.  - Jim Woolbright
Don Ortgies coaches the shooting of 10-year-old Spencer Neumiller of Coupeville.
— image credit: Jim Woolbright

Last Saturday, 23 men, women and children attended a firearms safety class at the Central Whidbey Sportsman Association range, offered by the Island County Sheriff’s Department.

Detective J. D. Burns and retired detective Errol Ortego were the primary instructors, assisted on the range by seven members of the club who acted as safeties and coaches during the firing phase of the training.

With handouts and demonstrations they talked the class through the legalities of having a firearm in a household and the need to keep all firearms securely locked up separate from the ammunition.

The detectives pointed out that you can not “hide” a gun from a child, that they will find it, so you must keep it under lock and key.

Prior to going to the range with the aid of dozens of firearms that they brought to the class, they demonstrated the different types of firearms, rifles, shotguns, revolvers and autoloading pistols.

Each weapon’s characteristics and dangers was explained. Firing techniques, stance grip, sight picture, and trigger control were demonstrated. There were many questions that the detectives carefully answered.

Stacy Neumiller from Coupeville brought her son Spencer to the class because he wants an air rifle for Christmas.

Even though he has attended a Boy Scout air rifle safety course, his mother said she wanted him to “hear from the sheriffs’ department the laws that cover air rifles and the seriousness of the rules he would be required to follow if he gets his wish.”

After the classroom training they walked to the range where people who brought weapons placed them on the firing bench. A weapon was provided if the student didn’t have one.

The detectives one by one had them demonstrate that they knew how to safely handle, load and unload the weapon and if they didn’t, they walked them through the procedures.

It was at this point that the detectives and the club coach safeties teamed up with the students one on one, carefully reviewing the safety procedures and firing techniques before any weapons were fired.

There were students who had never fired their weapon or didn’t have one but soon everyone was taking their turn firing.

As the firing progressed you could see the look of surprise on the first- time shooters turn to concentration as they practiced under the watchful eye of their coach.

Joanne Carrin came to the class because she didn’t feel comfortable with the pistol that she had for protection, even though she had fired it before with her husband. After a time on the line she announced, “I now feel comfortable with my pistol.”

Her coach, Dennis Skog, said, “It’s like trying teaching your wife to drive. Some people are more comfortable having a stranger teach them.”

This class is not designed to make sharp shooters out of the students, but instead to give those who choose to own firearms the basic knowledge and skills to be safe, responsible gun owners.

The Central Whidbey Sportsman’s Association will have their next firearms safety class in the spring.

There is no fee or pre-registration required.

If you are thinking of getting a firearm for the first time or just want to refresh your knowledge and skills, look for the notice in the sports section of the Whidbey News-Times.

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