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Posted: October 2, 2012 6:53 p.m.

4-H’ers on target with firearm safety

On my trip to Australia, I traveled with a scrapbook of 4-H'ers favorites.

Favorite foods, favorite bands and favorite 4-H activities.

One page showed off three sisters' decoratively painted BB guns, while another page featured a seventh grade 4-H'er at the state BB tournament.

Our 4-H Project S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education) team teaches youth age 9 to eighth grade shooting safety and marksmanship each year through BB practice and competitions.

In a country where personal ownership of firearms is illegal in most cases, these two photos created a lot of conversation.

Firearm ownership was further restricted only 15 years ago, resulting in a buyback program, but the fact is most people have never had the right to own a firearm in Australia.

That's why there are no little Ralphie's in Australia asking Santa for Red Riders for Christmas, and few recognized what the 4-H'ers were holding in my photos.

Over there, parents saw little reason for children to learn firearm safety unless they lived on a farm, where permits would usually be held to cull farm pests such as kangaroos.

Here, however, firearm safety is a little different.

It's kind of like saying you don't need to teach your child about healthy eating because you only stock the fridge with healthy foods.

Even if a family home schools, surely the child will still visit friends or family where other foods are available, and one day they'll be doing the shopping on their own.

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 47 percent of American adults report having a firearm in their home or property. In the South, the percentage was even higher at 54 percent.

But not to worry: in a 2001 article in Pediatrics, 87 percent of parents said their children would not touch a gun they found.

More than half reported their children were "too smart." Sadly, only 40 percent based their answer on any specific training or instructions given to the children regarding firearms.

If you've watched TV or movies, or played a video game, I think you can guess where the rest of the children might be learning about firearms.

Some of those children are the ones who ask me every year what we get to shoot on the shooting sports team, often as they mimic shooting with their hands like some gangster in a movie.

Other children, many with hunting experience, laugh at the idea of going back to basics with a BB gun. They seem to think hitting 40 targets dead center while in four shooting positions is "easy."

Tell that to the thousands of 4-H'ers competing each year in Georgia and they'll laugh, too, but with the experience to know better.

The Newton County 4-H Shooting Sports team invites parents and youth who will be 9 years old by Dec. 31, and who are currently no higher than the eighth grade to an informational meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18.

Parents and youth will learn all about the team, expectations, and costs at the 7 p.m. meeting in our office, located on the second floor of the Newton County Administration Building. Please do not bring a BB gun.

As the program's name indicates, safety comes first in 4-H shooting sports. All youth must study the safety manual and pass an exam before they may begin target practice.

Firearm safety and knowledge continues at every practice, and is tested at every competition in the form of a written exam.

In addition to learning safety and practicing marksmanship, youth develop confidence and concentration. It's also a great family activity, since an adult is required to attend practice. Team members are already hard at work fundraising for the coming year, as well. The team needs funding to support coach certification, practice materials, and competitions.

You can make a tax-deductible donation directly to Newton County 4-H.

The Covington Tractor Supply is also raising funds for our 4-H program through the sale of paper icons. You can add $1 or more to your total to support 4-H.

 

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010 .or tkimble@uga.edu.

 

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