BLUE EARTH - Gun safety is for everyone, say Scott Adams and Jeff Schaper.
"Really, every kid should be exposed to gun safety because they will face a situation around a firearm somewhere down the road," Schaper said.
That's why they will teach a firearms safety class through Blue Earth Area Community Education beginning March 24. The classes will be held 7-9 p.m. Thursdays through April 24 at Blue Earth Ag Center.
The class is open to everyone who will be at least 12 years of age by Sept. 1. A parent or guardian must accompany minors to the first class. Students should not bring their own guns.
Adams has been an instructor for about 15 years, Schaper for about 10.
Some students come in having received instruction from parents or grandparents, but others have never held a gun before, so Adams and Schaper assess where each student is in experience and tailor the class to their needs.
The class will cover gun handling, and different types of guns, but also will teach children how to carry a gun in field situations.
Learning about their surroundings also will be important.
"We try to touch on survival, cover what to do in case of emergency, and what to do when you're lost," Adams said.
Tree stand safety is also on the agenda.
"Gun handling is the biggest part of what we do," Adams noted.
One change they have noticed over the years is who is participating.
"More and more girls are taking this class every year," Schaper said.
"Forty percent of the class last year was girls," Adams added.
"It's always more kids than adults, but it varies from year to year," Adams said.
The classes prepare students for a written test and a field trip.
"The written test proves they read the book and understand what they read," Adams said.
The field trip to a gun club proves they can put what they learned into practice.
Adams and Schaper will take the students to the woods and observe how well they handle the guns and how well the students notice things.
They've hung blaze orange apparel in the woods alongside camo apparel and asked the kids if they see the blaze orange - and keep track of how long it takes the students to spot the camo. It drives home the point that you always need to stay visible to others.
Students also shoot guns in different positions from a firing line. This gives instructors an opportunity to observe their gun handling skills and point out where they need improvement.
"It's not about marksmanship," Schaper stressed, "it's how they handle the gun."
Learning about guns is about so much more than hunting, the duo agree.
"Twenty to 24 percent of kids might shoot once a year, but have no desire to go hunting," Adams said.
"The better you can represent firearms, shooters, and hunters, it portrays a responsible image to the public," he said.
It's also about the camaraderie of people who share an interest.
"Jeff and I wouldn't have met each other without shooting sports," Adams said.
"A lot of really good people in it. Some of my best friends I have, I've met through shooting sports, one way or another," Adams said. "Not a lot of sports where you have doctors and factory workers competing in the same training."