Guns are not going away, said Elaina Spraker, a Teens on Target firearm safety trainer.
“We’re not going to debate gun control,” she said. “We live in a gun culture and we are protected by the second amendment.”
With that in mind, she said, the best thing to do is educate youth about responsible gun use and ownership, which is what she and her husband Ted Spraker have been doing for four years through their Teens on Target class.
A class of four teenage girls met for the first time at the Snow Shoe Gun Club firing range on Jan. 3 after weeks in the class room. During the session, the girls — 15-year-old Kerri-Ann Leavitt, of Kenai; 15-year-old Kat Payton, of Kenai; 17-year-old Kaitlin Davis, of Clam Gulch; and 17-year-old Denali Goodwill, of Sterling — handled and eventually fired semi-automatic pistols.
“One of the main goals is just safety,” Ted Spraker said. “We’re not trying to teach them to be hunters, just safe gun handlers.”
The class focused on pistols, Elaina Spraker said, because they are the most dangerous with their short barrels and require more knowledge to use than rifles and shotguns.
Goodwill said the class is important because it allows her to exercise her second amendment right and teaches her how to protect herself.
Although the teenager has never needed a gun to defend herself, she said one day she might.
And her mother, Suzanne Goodwill, said that is a useful skill particularly in Alaska, with dangerous wildlife and remote communities.
“Whether it’s two-legged or four-legged,” she said, “you need to make sure that she knows how to use a gun ... you know, where the safety is, be comfortable with the weapon she’s carrying.”
Also, she said, she wants her daughter to know what do when she walks into a room with a gun. If someone has a gun, she wants her daughter to know to check that it is empty.
Elaina Spraker said this year’s class has had a different perspective following the school shooting in Connecticut.
“It’s really important for us to step up as gun owners (and) firearm trainers to try to do a better job now,” she said.
During class Elaina and Ted Spraker showed the girls how to check that a pistol is safe by removing the magazine and pulling the slide back to clear any remaining bullets. They also demonstrated how to properly load, cock, grip and fire a pistol.
While Denali Goodwill is not yet old enough to own a gun under her name, her grandfather has given her a 12-gauge shotgun. When she is older, she said she will probably buy a handgun for personal protection.
“What made me really upset about the Connecticut shooting was everybody said, ‘Oh, it’s the gun’s fault,’” she said. “No. A gun can not hurt someone unless there’s a person on the other end of it.”
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.