LINO LAKES — Since 2009, the Lino Lakes Police Department (LLPD) has partnered with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to train and certify more than 180 people in firearms safety.
The LLPD offers the firearms safety program once a year for up to 20 students. The program consists of five two hour and 45-minute sessions in addition to a written test, field exam and proficiency at the gun range. Last week, 19 more students were certified.
“Most of these kids have been exposed to guns, whether through a family hunting tradition, a dad's handgun, at a friend’s house ... One of our goals of this course is to make the kids comfortable enough to not only render them safe if they have to, but also know that they aren't as mysterious or scary as people might think they are,” said Deputy Director Kyle Leibel.
The course is designed for the beginner hunter (at least 11 years of age) but is also open to anyone who wishes to certify. The Minnesota DNR requires this
course for anyone who wishes to hunt in Minnesota who was born after Dec. 31, 1979.
“With the popularity of firearms today comes an important need to train young people not only about the associated dangers, but also about the great responsibilities behind firearms handling,” Leibel said. “Although the course is designed around the longstanding Minnesota hunting tradition, many students in past classes have been from nonhunting families who have recognized a need for their child to be safe and aware when encountering firearms in their daily lives.”
During the five weeks, students delve into a variety of topics, including different types of weapons, water/boat safety (duck hunting), difference between big and small game, baiting, trespassing, Minnesota and Lino Lakes regulations and much more.
Each week, the students have required reading and homework to complete. They also, of course, have to study for the final exam.
“This gives them an opportunity to ask the questions in a safe environment and get the answers that might be burning right now,” Leibel said. “The earlier we engage in these conversations and create opportunities for these guys to ask some questions, operate these guns, they (guns) are no longer a mystery, they are no longer cool.”
Leibel added the relationship that is made between the youth and the police department is also a major benefit. For example, he is continually surprised by the discussions the youth are willing to have with him about experiences they have had, or bad habits they have seen displayed by family members or friends.
Mother Ashlee Murray brought her 11-year-old son Joe and some of his buddies to the program and decided to stick around so she could have some conversations with her son about the topic. She said her son was interested in taking the class, because he wanted to hunt or get into trapshooting.
“I hope they see how important it is and what a responsibility it would be if they are able to handle guns in the future. With all the video games that kids do these days, guns lose that fear. I think it is so important that they learn that they need to be safe,” Murray said.
“I really like the fact that it is run by the police department. I think for my son to be able to see police officers are normal people and he can talk to them just like anybody else, he will feel more comfortable if he ever has to talk to them in the future.”
Eighth-grader Lance Nielsen decided to take the class so he can “hunt, meet new people and have a good experience.”
Deer hunting is Nielsen's primary interest and he hopes to carry on the strong family tradition of hunting. “I learned that you have to take precautions. You can trust yourself, but you have to take precautions about others,” he said.
Sophomore Parker Pederson wanted to take the course so he can duck hunt and maybe deer hunt, too. He said his family members used to do a lot of hunting but have not for a while. Parker's sister Meagan, a freshman, also took the course, as she hopes to get into hunting too.
The next firearms safety program will likely take place next August. For more information, contact the LLPD at 651-982-2300.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.