Volunteering for safety and empowerment
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on February 6, 2006.
The Lions Club runs an eye vision program in this country and around the world that literally helps the world see better. The Shriners, with their funny hats and motorcycles, spend over $1.5 million a day on children. The Kiwanis and other groups have hundreds of volunteers that give time and money to help make the community a better and safer place.
There's another group of volunteers here in Grand Junction that deserves community praise and support. These often-unsung heroes give up evenings and weekends to empower people, make them safer, and fight crime.
Volunteers with Grand Valley Training Club have helped train over 5,000 men and women to handle firearms safely and effectively. Arms in the hands of responsible citizens help deter and prevent crime (and, in the longer run, foreign aggression).
The key word here is "responsible." And the best way to promote responsible gun ownership is to participate in high-quality training.
Clearly such safety programs make a difference in increasing safety. Consider the fact that, in 1933, there were 3,014 fatal gun accidents, according to statistics compiled by criminologist Gary Kleck. Even though U.S. population has grown substantially since then, and, as Kleck writes, the "size of the U.S. gun stock increased enormously from the 1960s through the 1990s... though the prevalence of gun ownership in U.S. households [as a percentage] showed little or no change," the number of deaths had dropped to 1,225 in 1995 (though some of this change is due to better medicine).
By 2003, the number had dropped to 730, according to Centers for Disease Control.
As the book Freakonomics points out, "In a given year, there is one drowning of a child for every 11,000 residential pools in the United States... Meanwhile, there is 1 child killed by a gun for every 1 million-plus guns... [A child] is roughly 100 times more likely to die in a swimming accident... than in gunplay..."
Yet, even though gun owners generally are very safe (and almost all "accidents" are caused by a small minority of generally-reckless individuals), more training is always better. Really there's no such thing as an "accidental" shooting. Every unintentional shooting is the result of breaking one or more of the gun-safety rules.
If you take a Grand Valley Training class, you'll be able to recite those rules from memory and implement them consistently.
What motivates the volunteers for those classes?
National Rifle Association (NRA) certified instructor Jeannie Mitchell decided to take a Basic Pistol and Personal protection in the Home course because, at the time, her husband's job took him away from home.
Jeannie said, "I thought guns were extreme; I decided to take the (NRA) class and then make an informed decision on using a firearm for protection. By the time I had finished the class, I felt I was well informed with the knowledge and skills I needed to make that final decision. More and more women refuse to be a victim and sadly many have been a victim."
After lots of thought, practice, and money, Jeannie became an NRA certified instructor. Asked why she became an instructor, she said, "I want to see more women in our classes. I hope to encourage and inspire students and give them another option in their protection."
Jeanette Tyson, a petite woman barely five feet tall who only looks younger than your elder columnist, is also a certified instructor. She said, "It is so very fitting that I dedicate my time and effort to a cause precious to me and my upbringing. I want women to feel comfortable with firearms in their hands and in their homes as well as their handbag. It is my hope and plan that through my efforts, women will have the confidence to protect themselves in critical life-threatening situations to prevent them from later being listed as victims. It will then be up to these same women to pass these values on to their children and their children down the line."
NRA Instructor and a NRA Training Counselor Bill Buvinger said, "It is the pride I feel when I teach a student who never held a gun before and as the result of my actions they learn to competently handle a firearm safely and are able to defend themselves and loved ones. It is the thanks I receive from an experienced shooter when my tips help him to improve his shooting."
Jeannie, Jeanette, and Bill are just a few of the training counselors and instructors in the Grand Valley, instructors who spend their own money to be certified and for training. They spend evenings and weekends training others to be safe. They also contribute to the social bonds in our community and have a great time. Their dedication, and that of other instructors across the nation, has created wonderful results.