Like it or not, guns are a fact of life in America. To help kids stay safe, the New Paltz Rod and Gun Club is sponsoring a gun safety workshop and marksman competition for teens age 12 to 17 on Saturdays throughout the summer. An open house for kids and their parents will be held on May 26 at noon. The National Rifle Association (NRA) First Steps Safety Class will be held on June 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will teach kids how to hold, handle and unload a rifle safely. Parents are welcome, indeed encouraged, to attend the workshop, which is designed to answer any questions they may have, said Tom Mihalics, the Club’s youth activities chairman.
Mihalics said that, as a concerned dad of two kids, he was inspired to offer the workshop. “Even people who don’t like guns might have a rifle in the attic,” he said. “Accidents happen. By taking the workshop, these kids will be trained and know how to use the weapon,” so as to avoid tragedies.
Following the June 2 workshop, there will be practice sessions on marksmanship, in which the kids shoot at targets and bull’s-eyes and win points. “It’ll be Olympic-style shooting,” based on the NRA Winchester Marksmanship Program, said Mihalics. The Club has both an indoor and outdoor pistol range and will supply the rifles. The cost is a one-time fee of $20. The program will be limited to 32 kids, who will be split into two groups, with each group meeting every other Saturday. “I have certified NRA college professors and high school teachers helping me: people who know how to handle kids,” Mihalics said.
Meanwhile, Monday nights at the Club are for trap shooting: a sport that originated in England and has six million participants in the US. Jeff Bennett, the Club’s chair of trap shooting, said that he can shoot to his heart’s content without upsetting his wife, “who won’t let me shoot anything alive.” Bennett, who as a native New Yorker always yearned to be a cowboy, finally got his wish after he turned 60 and discovered trap shooting while on vacation in Florida. He has now been doing it for five months. “It’s extremely exciting” and harder than it looks, he said: “You need good hand/eye coordination.”
On Mondays from 5:45 to 9 p.m., participants in groups of five position themselves 16 yards in front of a trap house as a voice-activated machine shoots out clay birds, one at a time. The object, of course, is to shoot as many clay birds as you can. After five clays for every shooter, everyone moves to a new position until they finish their 25-clay round. The birds are always going away from the shooters – and the throwing machine oscillates so no one’s sure what direction the clays will take. (In contrast, pairs of birds come at you from the side in the related sport of skeet.) Each participant has to provide his or her own 16-, 20- or 12-gauge shotgun and shells. The Club provides the clay and charges $4 a person for each round of 25 birds. If you shoot four rounds, you get $1 off.
For more information and directions to the New Paltz Rod and Gun Club, log on to http://newpaltzrodandgun.org or call (845)255-7586.