Once per week, 8- to 15-year-old kids file into the Shoot Smart gun range and training center in Fort Worth to learn about gun safety.
The grade-schoolers are part of the Summer Youth League gun camp, part of a growing trend across the country. The children meet the Fort Worth and Grand Prairie locations for six weeks.
“All of our classes are full at both locations,” Shoot Smart’s customer and programs manager Cassie Shockey said. “They all go through the new shooter class the first day of the league and then they get to go down to the range and shoot. We pair them up, so it gives the kids a chance to try the fire arm out in a fun and non-threatening way.”
The students work with a .22-caliber handgun. Instructors teach them how the firearm functions, the fundamentals of shooting, and gun safety. Students are drilled on the rules throughout the class.
“The rules are always point your gun in a safe direction, don’t point your gun at a person, always have your earmuffs on, and always treat the gun like its loaded,” 8-year-old Hayden said.
Hayden's grandfather Ricky Collins said Hayden has been shooting since he was 5 years old.
“I was raised around firearms, his dad was raised around firearms and, of course, around us we like to shoot a lot,” Collins said.
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1 out of 3 homes in America, with children, have guns. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are more than 30,000 gun-related deaths every year in the United States. Some of those deaths were accidental, and stemmed from children who picked up a loaded gun and pulled the trigger.
Part of the classroom training within the Summer Youth League helps students gain a new respect for firearms and for people round them.
“We’ve had a few parents come in who have limited knowledge of firearms, but want their children to learn about the firearm safety because there are guns in the house or a family member may have a gun," Shockey said. "Firearms are also a big part of the culture in the United States. We try to dispel a lot of the myths or misconceptions that kids and parents have.”
Parents like Michel Cleveland, who is a mother of four daughters. Three of her daughters attend the Youth Summer League. “My 16-year-old, 15-year-old, and 9-year-old are here,” she said. “Up until 4 or 5 years ago, I was one of those mom. I was nervous about guns. I didn’t let my kids have the little water guns. I was afraid of them, but it wasn’t until I learned how to safely handle a weapon and learn that the weapon is not going to go off on its own. Someone has to pull the trigger. So I just want my kids to be safe, and we don’t live in a safe world anymore,” she said.
Classes for the Summer Youth League end in August.