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Fun on the range for Walnut Park students

Grades 6 and 7 students got to try out the Bulkley Valley gun club’s new .22 rifle range last week
Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen chats with former Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club president Brian Atherton during a shooting session for Grades 6 and 7 Walnut Park Elementary School students on May 26. (Contributed photo)

It’s never too early to start learning about firearms safety.

On May 26, 50 Grade 6 and 7 from Walnut Park Elementary School got a chance to do that and have some fun on the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club’s (BVRGC) new .22 rifle range.

Club members had first visited the class the week before to go over basic firearm safety rules that form the basis of responsible use.

Eight students at a time could be on the firing line of the newly renovated shooting shed. Single shot bolt action rifles were used and the students fired a total of just over 1,500 rounds.

There were at least five club members overseeing the action at all times and all students and spectators were supplied with the appropriate ear and eye protection.

They first started on paper targets to see how well they could get a group of ten rounds on paper. This helps develop an understanding of aiming and how to adjust their hold if the bullets were not precisely where they wanted them to be.

Then, the fun started. The club set up metal silhouettes of four types of small animals for the students to knock over with a satisfying ping as the bullet strikes the metal.

Then there were balloons — lots of balloons — culminating with all eight students firing at one time to hit balloons sitting on the hill. An exciting finish to their day on the range.

Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen also dropped by for an hour to see the action with the students and discuss concerns the club has regarding Bill 4, the Firearm Violence Protection Act currently in front of the B.C. Legislature.

“We appreciate his coming by and understanding the concerns that we have,” said gun club member and former president Brian Atherton. “With any new bill, it is appropriate for government to listen to feedback from those who would be most affected.”

The bill is aimed at curbing gang violence, but the local gun club worries that new rules in the legislation for shooting range operators are too onerous for small clubs such as BVRGC. For example, he noted an event such as the Walnut Park visit may be impossible under the new law because operators would be required to collect personal information on every participant.

Atherton said the definition of “operator” in the legislation is vague and appears to be directed at public ranges and inappropriate for a private club.

Atherton added that small-caliber shooting is a great option as a group activity.

“As COVID restrictions lift around the province our club would be more than willing to host other groups at the range,” he said. “It could be other schools or any group that would like to get some folks together to try out .22 rifle shooting.”

The contact for group shoots is Brian Atherton at 250-847-9339.

Submitted - with files from Thom Barker