by Karen Mehall Phillips - Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Amid surging sales of firearms and ammunition during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) announced it now permits federally licensed firearm retailers to provide drive-up or walk-up services to reduce health risks posed by the coronavirus. As reported by USA Today over Easter weekend, the new guidelines ensure compliance with government social-distancing orders while conducting essential business. The news comes as the NRA Education and Training Division works to service the rapidly growing number of first-time gun buyers by launching four new online gun safety courses to provide access to NRA training 24/7.
“These courses will provide an option for first-time gun owners who don't have the ability to take an NRA-certified, instructor-led class at their local shooting range at this time,” said Joe DeBergalis, executive director of NRA General Operations, the safety, education and training arm of the NRA. “While there is no replacement for in-person, instructor-led training, our new online classes do provide the basics of firearm safety training for those self-isolating at home.”
The new NRA courses include NRA Gun Safety Seminar; NRA Basic Pistol Shooting Course—Distance Learning; NRA Basic Rifle Shooting Course—Distance Learning; and NRA Basic Personal Protection In The Home Course—Distance Learning. Each spans one to eight hours and is available at nrainstructors.org. Though firsthand range time is a component of the Basics of Pistol Shooting and Personal Protection in the Home courses, there is still valuable material in every online section that can be reviewed during this time of social distancing.
“The NRA recommends that all new gun owners seek professional training at the range, but that doesn't mean you can't get a head start on learning the basics of firearm safety at home,” added DeBergalis. “New gun owners, old gun owners, it doesn't really matter. Taking one of these classes moderated by a certified NRA instructor can only make you safer—and that's our primary goal.”
In addition, gun owners who also are hunters should know they may take advantage of free online NRA hunter safety courses. First up, in 2017, following a $3 million investment in hunting’s future, the NRA unveiled its free state-of-the-art online hunter education course and in March it launched a new online class for experienced hunters to serve as a hunter safety refresher. But spearheading hunter education is nothing new for the NRA considering it worked with the state of New York in 1949 to develop America’s first ever state-based hunter education course. Other states quickly adopted the model, and the rest is history. In fact, years ago hunter education cards read “NRA Hunter Safety.”
On the child safety front, the NRA Education and Training Division also offers the national award-winning gun accident prevention Eddie Eagle GunSafe program. This life-saving program teaches children pre-K through fourth grade what to do if they come across an unattended firearm. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, it is a valuable aid for parents, educators, law enforcement and community groups nationwide. I can attest to the program’s success firsthand as I personally prepared the NRA’s award entry that earned it national honors from the National Safety Council (NSC) in October 1996 when the NSC Youth Activities Division presented its silver Award of Merit to the then-called “Eddie Eagle Program” for its efforts to “promote safety and health, save lives, lessen injury and reduce economic loss.”
As we all work to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear we are stocking up on more than just food and bottled water. The NRA is front and center as our thoughts turn to survival—from personal protection and the safety of our family and friends to making sure we’re equipped to put food on the table and weather the storm.
The NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website covers news relevant to hunters on the local, national and international fronts. We track how hunters' dollars are spent and we celebrate our long and rich hunting tradition, exposing those who seek to destroy it. Follow NRAHLF.org on Twitter @HuntersLead.
Editor’s Note: The ongoing investment in time and resources that the NRA continues to make in firearm safety and education cannot be over emphasized. On the child-safety front—which has nothing to do with its efforts to teach mainstream Americans the safe and responsible use of firearms in step with other NRA Education and Training Division programs—I am proud to say that in October 1993, the National Safety Council also presented its Citation for Outstanding Community Service Award to program creator and then NRA President Marion P. Hammer.
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