University of Washington group gets a lesson in shooting

By J. Patrick Coolican The Seattle Times (KRT) Some college kids go to poetry readings in bohemian coffeehouses. Given a chance, others will shoot guns at a firing range, the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation believes. The gun-rights group and a sister organization started a pilot program last week called “Freedom Shoot,” bringing together about 25 college students _ most of them University of Washington College Republicans _ and National Rifle Association-certified trainers at Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop in Bellevue. The foundation hopes to unroll the program nationally to get college kids into firing ranges to learn about gun safety and gun rights. Gun-control advocates have doubts about the group’s motives, however. The day began at Second Amendment Foundation offices in Bellevue, whose walls are adorned with prints of guns, John Wayne and rifle-toting cowboys. NRA trainer Phil Murray of Woodinville told the students his shortest course in gun safety is usually four hours, though last week’s was closer to 25 minutes. He said the three important rules of gun safety, in order of importance, are to point the gun in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot, and to not load the gun until you’re ready to fire. The last rule, he added, carries an exception _ “If you keep one in your home for self-defense,” then it’s fine to keep it loaded. “An unloaded firearm is a paperweight,” he said. Once at the range, the students scooped up ear and eye protection atop a glass case in which an array of guns were displayed. Each student received one-on-one attention from NRA-certified instructors. Alayna Riggi is a sophomore at UW who hadn’t shot a gun before last week. She’ll be coming back, she said. “I love the revolver because you feel like you’re in a Western,” she said of the .22-caliber handgun. Her target, which bore her signature, was ripped apart with bullet holes. Jason Chambers, who’s been shooting his whole life, had six of eight holes in the bull’s-eye part of his target. Over the roar of 9 mm gun blasts, he said he didn’t think much of gun control. One gun-control advocate said the event was more about recruiting political foot soldiers than safety. “I would assume this is absolutely not about education; I think it’s a political agenda they’re pursuing and not a safety agenda,” said Laura Lockard, executive director of Washington CeaseFire. Though he conceded the College Republicans’ participation gave the event certain political overtones, Joe Waldron, one of the organizers, said the primary purpose was to teach gun safety to young people who are otherwise ignorant about it. Lockard said loaded weapons are dangerous and should have to be secured when stored in a home. “That’s exactly what’s killing our kids _ loaded weapons in the home,” she said. “Storage requirements have to be based on that person’s particular set of circumstances,” Waldron replied, adding, “We put our time and effort on the line as gun-safety teachers; I don’t know anyone at CeaseFire who does that.” Since 1997, Wade’s has been the site of two accidental shootings _ one of them fatal _ and three suicides involving guns. Store manager John Clarke said the store no longer allows people who are alone to rent guns and asks new patrons how experienced they are. ___ ‘copy 2003, The Seattle Times. Visit The Seattle Times Extra on the World Wide Web at Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.