Kyle Jensen / The Record — Instructor Allen Vautier walks William Grindon, 12, through cocking a pistol’s chamber. Grindon’s mother took her family to the range to familiarize themselves with pistols before bringing one into their home for safety.

South Whidbey shooters take aim at firearm safety

Katie Grindon never imagined herself shooting a pistol, let alone owning one.

Yet on Saturday, the former Whidbey resident now living in Mukilteo took her husband and two teenage sons to the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club for an introductory pistol class. Over time, she came to believe it’s better to be safe in a scenario with potential gun violence. Knowledge is power, she said.

“I didn’t even want to take up a gun before,” Grindon said. “I felt nervous, but also excited. After the class, I feel much more comfortable, even though I still have a lot to learn before I feel fully safe with one.”

More than a dozen people attended the introductory course: men, women and teenagers. The healthy attendance for the monthly class has been common during the past eight years, and has directly correlated with the rise in firearm sales during those years, instructor Dave Shupe said.

The introductory course is an all-day affair. Class starts at 9 a.m, and students spend until noon on classwork, reading and listening to an instructor’s lecture on the ins and outs of pistols. The most basic safety information is covered first: how to check if a gun is loaded, the difference between pistols and revolvers, the importance of keeping the muzzle in a safe direction, etc. Students also handle a variety of unloaded guns to see what fits and what’s most comfortable. Pistols such as High Standards, Smith &Wessons and Glocks are some of the few students are introduced to.

After lunch, students spend about three hours on the range testing .22 caliber target pistols. Three instructors, both male and female, baby-step them through the process of loading and unloading magazines and how to properly aim at a target. Both centerfire and rimfire pistols are available for students to shoot to familiarize themselves with the different ignition methods. Once the basics are nailed down, instructors announce “we’re hot!” before shots are fired.

“We watch for safety errors very carefully,” Shupe said. “We check if they have a finger on the trigger, if they’re leaning back and so on. New shooters have a tendency of turning around with the pistol in hand when they have a question, and we make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The students had various levels of experience with firearms. Some were touching up on their skills, while others like Grindon were first-timers only recently open to the idea of having a gun in their home.

For Grindon and her family, the decision to take the course was for safety. She recently had a “scary, stalking real estate situation” involving a former client, which made her realize a dangerous situation could occur any moment. Her father bought a gun for her home, but wouldn’t lend it to her until the family took a pistol safety course. But Grindon says the most important thing to learn for her and her sons is how to discharge a weapon.

“For my boys, safety is the most important piece in case they ever get in a situation,” Grindon said. “I don’t see them in a situation where someone breaks into our house, but there may be a friend who shows off a gun at their house or at school. I want them to know what to do.”

Grindon added it’s important for women to feel comfortable with pistols as additional protection. She said she’s shocked by how many women have guns and concealed carry permits, but that it makes sense as protection from crimes against women.

Yet for Bayview resident Kelly Cammermeyer, knowing how to at least use a pistol is a crucial skill in today’s current climate. Cammermeyer doesn’t own a firearm, and says she doesn’t yet feel comfortable enough to bring one home. But she believes familiarity with firearms should be universal, regardless of personal feelings about guns.

“If you’re going to be living in this society, everyone should know how to use a gun regardless of political views,” Cammermeyer said. “I think it’s prudent, even if you don’t have one.”

Shupe has similar views about the importance of being familiar with firearms, even for those who don’t like them. He says Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club caters to those who may not even be interested in guns, citing the club’s restaurant, lounge and live music. To him, it’s the club’s way of trying to warm the general populace up to guns, hoping to show the community they’re OK when safely handled.

Kyle Jensen / The Record — Bayview resident Kelly Cammermeyer aims at her target at Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club. Cammermeyer said she takes pistol courses in case she ever felt comfortable having a weapon at home.

Kyle Jensen / The Record — Students practice with target 22 pistols.

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