A program to help local youths improve their gun shooting skills got a boost after it was awarded a $7,900 grant from the Northern California chapter of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
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Run by members of the American Legion Post 119 in Shingle Springs, the shooting program is in its third year.
Chuck Brasiel said he started the program two years ago when he was commander of Post 119. “I decided I wanted to teach kids to shoot,” he said.
A local businessman and former competitive shooter himself, Brasiel said he and three others then went about getting certified by the NRA as instructors. The board of directors of Post 119 gave them $1,500 to jump-start the program and the second year gave them another $1,000. He said they used the funds to buy targets, protective glasses, pellets, patches, awards, rifles and target holders.
The program has also received some funding from the local Fish and Game Commission and from fundraisers they have held.
First class equipment
Brasiel said the grant from the NRA foundation will allow the post to take the program to another level because of all the new equipment it purchased.
“It shocked us to get this grant, it was so good,” he said. “We’re really pleased with the NRA.”
According to Chuck Holland, who is the chair of the local friends of the NRA, the foundation doesn’t actually give out money. Instead it purchases equipment for those receiving a grant.
In the case of Post 119, the NRA bought $7,900 worth of .22 Winchester rimfire rifles, pellet rifles, spotting scopes, shooting mats, pellets, targets, ammunition and kneeling rolls.
“And because the NRA gets a considerable discount on its purchases,” Holland said, “it can buy first-class equipment for those awarded grants.”
Holland said the grant process is very competitive. In the 2011-2012 year, their chapter received 52 grant requests and they gave away $250,000. “These were one of the few guys that got full funding for their request,” he said. He credited its success to the American Legion Post being very specific about what it wanted. “We’re absolutely thrilled to give out junior shooting money. I hope they’re coming back for more next year.”
Holland said his chapter was “the number one dollar producer in 2011 and 2012 in Northern California. We raise money to give away as grants. In 2012 we were the number two fundraiser in California for friends of the NRA foundation. That’s why we’re here. To give money away.”
The shooting program meets every Tuesday night, except the third Tuesday of each month, at the American Legion Post facility on Greenstone Road. The program lasts eight weeks and is open to youths 10 to 18.
While they have classes going on currently, organizers plan to schedule another round once they get the required number of students to sign up.
The cost for the eight week program is $35 which includes receiving a shirt, hat, patches, glasses and a manual.
“Youths don’t have to have someone who is a member of the post to participate,” Brasiel noted. “Our shooters are not related to members of this post. Mostly they are kids from the community.”
Bud Brown, who is currently second vice commander of the post and who helped set up the program, said participants only use air guns and pellets and all shooting is inside their facility. Later, if they pass the training and a written test, they graduate to a .22 rifle. The .22 rifle is only shot at a local range with an instructor present.
There are also competitions that youths can participate in without having to do a lot of travel. Instead they mail in their target sheets for scoring by the host organization. Brasiel said last year their team did well enough to score in the middle of almost 1,000 other teams.
Brasiel, Brown and Holland see interest in shooting programs picking up although less so in California. While many colleges have shooting programs that develop potential Olympics contenders, few California high schools have them. “Outside of California many high schools have gun programs,” said Brasiel. “But in California, guns are treated as evil.”
That’s unfortunate, said Brasiel, because being an accomplished shooter can help in landing a scholarship or admittance to college. He cited the example of one girl in the class — Raeven Barrett, 17 — who was able to attend summer leadership seminars at the Air Force and naval academies in part because of her participation in the shooting program. He said that experience, plus her training in the shooting program, may eventually help her get admitted into one of those two exclusive schools.
So far the shooting program at the American Legion Post has attracted a small but loyal cadre of 12 to 13 participants, some of whom are back for a second time.
Taking advantage of shooting program on Tuesday night was Cami Young, 15, from Placerville. “I really love shooting and it’s a good sport for boys and girls,” she said. “The class helps people get familiar with rifles, for home defense, and can help with a military career.”
Shooting with her was Chandler Morrill, 16, of Placerville. In the program for a second year, he said he joined “because it has improved my accuracy, safety in the use of guns, and gun etiquette.”
“We are very safety conscious,” said Brasiel. “We’ve never had an accidental discharge.”
Aside from expanding the number of youths and instructors in the shooting program, Brasiel, Brown and Holland have additional plans for the future.
Holland said he hopes to give more money to the American Legion Post so they can help get a similar program up and running in Auburn. He encouraged those interested in setting up programs and applying for funding to contact him at 530-622-6500 or through the NRA’s Website.
Brasiel and Brown said they would eventually like to set up a ROTC program at one or more local high schools. But for now, their primary focus is on expanding the number of youths participating in the shooting program and finding more instructors for it.
Youths interested in signing up for the classes or adults interested in being instructors should contact Brasiel. He can be reached at 530-642-0300.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.