Retired officer promoting gun safety

The Associated Press

YUMA, Ariz. — Retired police officer John Gross has seen the devastating consequences when adults and children use guns inappropriately.

Gross remembers "coming across a boy who had a loaded pistol, and not knowing anything about it at all, he cocked it and pointed it at himself and pulled the trigger. He died from it."

There are other ways that people can get hurt when they play with guns, such as playing a game of quick draw or mixing guns with alcohol, he said.

That is why the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers the Scholastic Clay Target Program, which teaches firearm safety to youths at the Yuma Trap and Skeet Club range.

On April 20, the NRA gave a grant of $24,400 to Yuma Trap and Skeet for a new high house on the range at Adair. Adair is a shooting range 15 miles north of Yuma, and it is open to the public including youth shooters like the Boy Scouts.

"We feel that the ranges must stay open and in good repair for the youth to learn safety and responsibility needed with firearms use," wrote Mark Webster, chairman for the local Friends National Rifle Association (NRA) and state fund committee chairman, in an e-mail.

Webster said that most youths can get hurt when they haven't been taught respect and responsibility for guns. Children can be inquisitive and if they haven't been instructed on how to properly use a gun they can get hurt, he said.

"That is why we take the time and money to educate (youths) because we don't want anything to happen (to them)," he added.

Cody McNutt, 17, has been shooting targets since he was 5 years old. McNutt says that his parents were both in the Marine Corps and wanted him to learn gun safety.

He began by shooting BB guns, and now shoots pistols and rifles. He participates in the Scholastic Clay Target Program, and says he has learned a lot about safety from taking it.

"It makes you familiar (with guns), and it gives you more respect (for guns) as a sport ... and (it) teaches you not to be afraid of them ... I see guns in a positive way instead of a negative way," he said.

"If you learn to shoot guns properly it can deter (youths) from getting in trouble with guns in the wrong circumstances," Gross said. "The wrong circumstances would be a youth coming into contact with a gun and not knowing how to safely use it.

Taking out the mystery of the firearm so they are not curious can also help, he said.

Gross volunteers with the Scholastic Clay Target Program and says the No. 1 thing that he tells the youth is to "never ever point a firearm at yourself or anyone else. Then it's much (harder) for someone to be accidentally shot."

He also teaches the youths how to properly hold a gun when it is resting and how to hold a gun when they are on the range. He teaches them how to load a gun and that it is only acceptable to put their finger on the trigger when they are ready to fire.

"Safety is the most important thing ... and respect for what you are doing out there," McNutt said.

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