Firearms Safety – It’s No Accident By Design

FirearmssafetypatchIt was 30 years ago when I first took firearms safety as a 12-year old.   Notice how I mentioned I FIRST took firearms safety.   That’s right…during the years since I first stepped into a firearms safety class as a youth, I have voluntarily refreshed the class as recently as 12 years ago as an adult.   Why?   Because the fact is you are never too old or too experienced handling guns to forget the all-important lessons learned from this class.

Today I was reminded of that experience when a good friend of mine, John Maki, stopped by to visit me in my office.   You see, John is one of the local volunteer firearms safety instructors and for the past two years I have donated a plaque recognizing an outstanding youngster from his most recent training class.   While the award certainly recognizes a youngster and their classroom achievement…it also gives the local sportsman’s club a chance to get some valuable publicity in promoting this vital community training.

After John left my office I started to think about all these tireless volunteers from around the country who spend their free time passing on these critical and very necessary gun skills.   To many kids, this is the first introduction they will have to conservation practices as well as to the proper handling of firearms.   These instructors are burdened with the awesome responsibility of inspiring the youth of today into becoming the safe, gun-handling adults of tomorrow.   For most people, it may be their first and the last time they are ever exposed to formal education in the proper handling techniques of firearms.   Indeed, it takes a special instructor to impact a person’s life so effectively that they recognize and maintain these important lessons over a lifetime.

I pay tribute to John because 30 years ago he was also one of my firearms safety instructors.   I can vividly remember sitting in his class as if it happened just yesterday with him talking about compound bows and the many wonders of hunting with archery equipment.   I dare say there are few other classes from school I can recall with the same mental clarity…but when it came to the fun lessons of becoming a responsible youth learning about the outdoors and the equipment hunters use…I was all eyes and ears for the lessons he taught.   John’s message not only captured my attention, but the skills he was carefully promoting also captured my imagination for how I saw myself developing as a sportsman hunter.

Even though many kudos can certainly be paid to folks like John and thousands of dedicated instructors like him from across the country…this message is not solely about his individual efforts.   Instead, I want to emphasize how the hunting community as a whole owes this special fraternity of volunteer firearms safety instructors a debt of gratitude for doing the work we often take for granted.   Firearms safety training, from the perspective of the instructor, takes a patience and skill in relating to youth that is nothing short of commendable, as far as I’m concerned.

When you consider how the typical instructor touches hundreds, if not thousands, of students over their teaching career…it becomes an awesome responsibility.   In many ways, this person is the gatekeeper of continuing our unique outdoor heritage.   If we fail to introduce the youth of today to the proper handling and understanding of the “tools of the trade,” they can never be expected to fully appreciate and respect the skills necessary to become a safe sportsman.

I might suggest that if you don’t personally know who teaches firearms safety in your community you should make an effort to get to know this person.   Offer to be a resource person willing to assist as needed.   Even sitting in on the classes when you don’t have to sends a message showing these young, impressionable minds how important firearms safety is no matter at what stage you are at in your hunting career.

No doubt about it 30 years ago when John described his passion for bowhunting he planted a seed in my mind on that day that continues to grow even as of today.   I doubt he fully realized it at the time…and probably doesn’t comprehend just how important that effort was even today.   But every budding sportsman needs a good mentor as a role model…and I believe for most youth it begins with the very capable instructors in the firearms safety class…and then later it continues with the family and the friends who must constantly reinforce each of those safety lessons once learned.


International Hunter Education Association (features links to all state programs)

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

The Right To Shoot…And Be Free From Nuisance Complaints

Currently the Minnesota Senate is debating the merits of legislation that would protect and set forth a series of guidelines for the operation and protection of Minnesota’s 320 gun clubs.   The legislation is important because, if properly enacted, it should begin to address the growing problem between gun clubs and the urban sprawl that threatens to run some clubs out of business.

This is a national problem with some serious consequences.   As would-be homeowners continue to carve out their niche in the world, inevitably the clash occurs between the interests of gun clubs and the wants of the new homeowner who happens to locate near the range.   In time, frustrations eventually hit the proverbial boiling point mostly due to the noise levels obviously associated with carrying on the club’s activities.

Shooters can take heart as they are not fighting this battle alone.   For several decades now the same problems have been occurring with farmers who look to carry on their livelihoods but have been sued under various nuisance laws – mostly for noxious odor concerns.   In most instances the courts have held in favor of the farmers…but during the 1990s it was becoming a dicey situation even for them.

Today, most states have some form of a “Right-To-Farm” law that protects the farmer to pursue his livelihood activities…even when neighbors new to the area don’t happen to like the offensive smells.   Still, it is prudent upon the farmers to use due diligence and follow strict guidelines to reduce any potential odor causing activities that heighten the conflict between farm/non-farmer neighbors.

Essentially this same action is now being looked at on behalf of protecting shooters and establishing some rights to pursue those leisure activities.   Let’s face it…it only stands to reason that when a shooting club establishes itself 25 years prior in a once desolate area…and with the passage of time land use changes evolve creating an area not so desolate from people…one could conclude it is the new homeowners who should have accepted such inconveniences by virtue of where they chose to locate their home.   In fact, we have always been a society to recognize the rights of those who made claims first over subsequent occupants – consider the Homestead Act, Land Squatting, etc.

But that is not always how things work in the real world.   The fact is many shooting ranges have some serious legal problems on the horizon if actions to protect them are not taken soon.   Fortunately, Minnesota is attempting to be proactive during this legislative session and address this ever-growing problem with the Shooting Range Protection Bill.

Still, the shooting ranges are not completely off the hook even with new legislation.   Many of these clubs continue to operate under very strict ordinances and zoning requirements that limit the hours when noise can occur from the club.   Furthermore, it will be prudent upon the clubs to develop ways to further abate the noise problem by creating barriers or baffles that absorb some of the disrupting sound.

The bottom line, however, is shooting clubs need to take actions that create more positive public relations.   Rather than fighting the problem with the “I was here first” mentality…it behooves the smart range operators to quickly accept that urban sprawl sooner or later will occur for most every club.   And when it does, dealing with the problem and taking the time to welcome the new neighbors might make big strides towards eliminating future conflicts.

If shooting clubs took the time to invite new occupants in the neighborhood to the range it might establish a different tone of tolerance that will last many years into the future.   I’m not saying it will happen in every instance, but if the club sponsored a neighborhood block party each year it could pay big dividends in reducing the level of angst some of these residents have toward the owners of the ranges.

History has shown that the Minnesota Senate has a knack for messing around with a good thing and attaching all sorts of amendments to dilute an otherwise good proposed law.   To follow actions on the bill click here.   As this legislative session begins to wind down in the next few weeks…I’m hoping this is one law that becomes enacted to protect those who like to plink much like similar laws now protect those who like to farm.

Shooting may not be a livelihood for most of us, but protecting our rights on the range is nevertheless equally as important for the future of our sport.   We’re losing enough good hunting land to homes being built where they don’t belong, at least in my opinion.   We surely don’t have to put up with losing our well-established gun ranges too.


I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention some links to a current law suit involving a hunting and shooting club out in Virginia.   There is currently some high drama taking place with potential national implications for all of us.   Check out the story by reading more here, here and here.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Pulling The Trigger Via The Internet

Imagine sitting in the comforts of your den, in your underwear, a fresh-brewed cup of coffee on your computer desk, a nice cozy office chair…and hunting via the Internet.   Yes, I said hunting with a real gun participating in the blood sports as if you were out in the briars and brambles, sort of, without really being there.   Indeed, we have reached the computer age in more ways than many folks want to imagine.

What is causing this new controversy is a website called   Here you can join as a member, shoot a variety of guns by remote control (using your computer), and basically have fun with the shooting sports without fear of recoil, flinching or the host of other maladies that inflict a shooter when holding a firearm for real.

But that’s not exactly what has many folks up in arms.   It’s the fact that on this web site aside from just plinking you can also hunt feral hogs for a price.   That’s right, you sit at your computer much like waiting in a tree stand to waylay the prey as it wanders by.   The difference is you are doing the killing hundreds, perhaps even thousands of miles away from the actual killing scene.

Personally, I am not offended by the concept of remote controlled hunting as much as it seems to bother some folks.   Take, for instance, a disabled person who has had a life-long dream of being able to hunt.   If this person’s a quadriplegic, it would likely not have been possible for this would-be hunter to participate in any other way.   Now a hunter with great disabilities can experience the same thrill, albeit in a much sanitized way, that I as a sportsman feel out on the deer stand.

Are there definite problems with remote controlled hunting?   Absolutely.   First and foremost is the issue of state law.   Hunting in a state where you might need to be licensed to enjoy such activities…but when you aren’t physically in the state…well, it’s kind of hard to enforce the issue.   How can you begin to prosecute a hunter who might be literally hunting a world away?

And sure, there’s also the issue of wanton waste.   Sportsmen do not as a rule just go around killing, even such critters as feral hogs are used for meat.   But if you are in another country hunting on the Internet are you realistically having the meat processed and sent to you?   Probably not.

My take on remote hunting is that it will never become a popular fad.   Sure, people will hear about it in the news and be fascinated about the prospect of shooting a gun by remote control…but it will never gain widespread popularity.   Even in this age of kids being more excited by their computers and electronic games as they are to the wonders of nature…maybe hunting remotely is yet another 21st Century way to introduce youngsters and others to the sport of hunting.   Let’s face it…if a person who has never hunted has fun shooting and bagging game on the Internet…they are bound to have the urge to experience it in person.   At least one would think so.

As many of the state legislatures see bills frantically introduced to control or ban remote hunting, I have to wonder how will it be next that computers end of effecting our lives next.   When you can potentially deer hunt using a laptop computer laying in bed on a cold, snowy morning…it just goes to show you how computers have the potential to change and be applied to just about any aspect of our lives…even in the outdoors!

Good or bad, you will hear lots more about the issue of remote hunting in the months to come.   My guess is the activity will be shunned wholeheartedly by folks who pride themselves as traditionalists and think technology has gone way too far this time.   Maybe so, but I happen to believe with some proper controls and regulations in place, and once the hysteria of the whole notion of remote hunting has died down…that it could potentially have more positive effects than negative to our sport.

Maybe it isn’t right for you or for me…but let’s not forget the folks who might have some different circumstances going on in their lives…whether it be a disability or some other difficult challenge.   These people deserve the right just like you and me to experience the thrills and awe of hunting even if the method of doing so seems to be a total insult to those of us who pay the price with cold fingers and wet toes early in the morning.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.