North Iowa gun range hopes to shatter stigma of firearms

HANSELL, Iowa – Each year in the United States, there are about 32,000 gun-related deaths. In recent years, tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut have many politicians pushing for stricter gun control laws.

Saturday, those at a north Iowa gun range set up an event in an effort to educate the public on their views of firearms.

Volunteers at the north Hansell Shooting Sports Complex spoke with KIMT News 3 about the stigma they feel surrounds firearm use and ownership.

They say they want to educate people of all ages about guns in order to maybe change some perspectives.

“There’s always a fear of the unknown If you don’t come from a background in firearms, it’s hard to get involved in it,” explains Ray Baltes.

Baltes is a shotgun and rifle instructor, he’s helping to educate the public on everything to do with firearms; from ammunition, to safety, to how to actually use a gun.

“Guns are very safe, it’s the person handling a gun that make a gun unsafe. And that’s why education is the most important thing we can do,” Baltes explains.

He says that is a common misconception when it comes to guns.It’s that kind of stigma that he and others are hoping to shatter.

“Any firearm that you’re handling or shooting you should fully understand all the safeties on it, how to handle it safely and how to accurately deploy the firearm,” explains Range Safety Officer, Stephen Hartwell.

In light of recent shootings across the country, there’s been a lot of talk about gun control and tighter restrictions on access to firearms.

“I don’t know if gun law tightening is going to make a difference in this. I think that our problem is much more than just accessibility to firearms. It’s firearms in the wrong hands. I think it’s maybe a values problem more than a law problem,” adds Hartwell.

No matter what your views on guns are, it’s clear at this range is that safety and responsibility is a priority when there are firearms around.

“We follow all kids of rules. We’re very strict on safety because we don’t want anything happening. We’ve never had an injury in the 9 years we’ve been going,” adds Baltes.

The shooting range is holding an NRA Women on Target Instructional Shooting Clinic next Saturday the 28th. This will be their second year, and so far spots for the clinic are almost full.

And, despite interest in classes like this one, new numbers are showing Americans are actually buying fewer guns.

Shares of gun maker, Smith and Wesson, dropped 10% Friday morning.

Over the past couple years the gun industry has seen a ramp up in demand, fueled by concerns of stricter gun restrictions.

However, now sales of military style semi automatic assault rifles have declined significantly.

I spoke with a Certified NRA Pistol Instructor who says more people are opting for handguns.

Dan Nichols teaches permit-to-carry classes and says that many people don’t plan on carrying 24-7. Despite sales of rifles being down, he’s seen a peak in interest in self and home defense.

“It doesn’t surprise me, not with the way things are going in this country. I think more people are becoming interested in home defense, self-defense, whatever that may be,” says Nichols.

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