Olivia Brodock has just graduated as a homeschooler but is now taking a course in Constitutional Law to further her education. But she doesn’t always have her head in a book as she plans to do a lot of deer hunting when she visits her grandfather in New York state.
Combining those interests - her belief in the importance of the Second Amendment, the Constitutional Right to "bear arms" AND her desire to hone her own shooting skills -was why she and her younger sister Emma were among the approximate 25 Blount County 9-19 year-olds participating in the first meeting of this year’s Blount County 4-H Shooting Sports Class in September.
And while safety was utmost and instructors Jeff Thompson and Bert Goodfallow stressed there would be no "horsing around," there was a lot of laughter in the middle of all that learning!
Goodfallow, a retired Marine who served three tours in Vietnam, teaches Blount County’s Hunting Safety Courses and also teaches a blackpowder rifle course every summer for the National Rifle Association (NRA) for 13-17 year olds at the Whittington Center in New Mexico.
Thompson is likewise experienced with firearms having retired after 26 years as an Air Force fighter pilot and test pilot.
Goodfallow stressed that while the 4-Hers would be shooting mainly BB guns this year, he hoped the group stays together and advances to air rifles, rifles and shotguns.
He also dreams of a shooting range for young people within Blount County and plans to take the five most-talented and accurate of this year’s group, plus 2 or 3 alternates, as a team to the 4-H State Shooting Competition, likely to be held at the 4-H Center in Columbiana.
Goodfallow noted, "I am a member of the NRA and I do believe in the Second Amendment. If we want to preserve that, we have to start with our kids."
"We have some wonderful kids in this nation and we have some wonderful kids in this room," he commented to the applause of students and parents.
Goodfallow pointed out that gun safety and the other lessons learned during this year would "serve you well for the rest of your lives."
While several of the class members stated they had been dove hunting the previous weekend, all said they knew they had a lot to learn.
Goodfallow and Thompson pointed out the importance of always knowing what you’re shooting at. For instance, firing at a deer atop a hill is not good because a rifle bullet could either penetrate the deer or miss the deer winding up beyond the hill to houses or people.
As a security officer Goodfallow once knew another officer who fired toward a "suspect" running away from a building. That bullet wound up in a baby’s bedroom nearby, but thankfully the child was not injured.
He stressed never, ever shooting at a flat surface, including water. A friend was duck hunting, someone shot toward the water and a pellet hit the friend in the eye. The friend was a pilot and was forced to miss his livelihood for a year while his eye healed.
Both men stressed a gun should never be pointed at anything until the shooter is ready to make the shot. Telescopic lens on guns are great for shooting accuracy but should not be used to scoop out an area to see what is there.
"Buy a pair of binoculars," Goodfallow said. "Use them to see what is around you."
While everyone should be aware they should not use alcohol or drugs while using firearms (or anytime, according to Goodfallow) he pointed out ANY cold medication, both prescription and over-the-counter, that states "not to operate machinery" while using, also means a person should never be hunting or using a firearm while on the medication!
Firearms should always be unloaded until you’re ready to use them, keep your fingers off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot and treat every firearm as if it’s loaded unless you KNOW it’s not.
Goodfallow also said firearms and ammunition should be stored separately.
"I grew up in the country. You could go in any farmer’s kitchen and there would be a gun above the door or leaning in a corner, but we’re not that kind of society any more," he explained.
Goodfallow raised three sons who all were familiar with guns from an early age and all learned to shoot, but his guns were kept in one area and the ammunition in a locked box in the garage.
Goodfallow explained the difference between rifling in the barrel of a rifle, which makes the bullets expel in a spiral pattern for accuracy (much as a quarterback throws a spiral pass) as compared to the straight-forward expulsion of a smooth-bore shotgun whose shells shoot a "pattern."
"You aim a rifle but point a shotgun," he remarked.
Several firearms were examined and their parts identified including a single shot rifle, pump action rifle, bolt action rifle, lever action rifle, .22 semi-automatic and a double-barreled shotgun.
Goodfallow emphasized safeties on guns "are mechanical so just like any other mechanical device they can fail. So use them but don’t trust your life or someone else’s life on that."
Thompson then led the students from the classroom into the main auditorium of the Oneonta National Guard Armory where targets and mats were situated for practice. Students were divided into three-person teams with a loader, shooter and spotter in each team. But Thompson stressed all students will get to shoot during each class.
Anyone interested in the Blount 4-H Shooting Sports group can contact the Blount Extension Serve at (205) 274-2129. They plan to meet at the Armory (off Alabama 75 in Oneonta behind Valley Chapel Funeral Home) on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 4-5:30 p.m. according to 4-H Coordinator and Extension Specialist Nancy Graves.
4-Hers may also be interested in a GPS workshop which will be held in Blount County at Palisades Park October 13th from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The Blount Extension Office can be contacted about that event as well.
"This is a ‘firearm’ and not a weapon," Goodfallow stressed. "Shooting is a sport that can be enjoyed by just about anybody."
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.