To achieve success in sharpshooting competition, Hall County 4-H S.A.F.E BB Rifle Team members spend half their time learning about guns and gun safety in a classroom, the other half on the range putting their knowledge and skill to use.
Saturday, they tested their skills against some of the best sharpshooters in the county: law enforcement officers.
The Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office joined forces with the Hall County 4-H Club’s S.A.F.E (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education) BB Rifle Team to compete in the ninth annual “Cops and Kids BB Gun Challenge” at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center.
The day featured a four-round competition, testing both the kids’ and police forces’ skills. They shot from different positions each round, standing or lying flat.
Sherman Pass, head of Hall County’s 4-H target sports and organizer of the challenge, said the event is a positive experience for kids, the cops and the club.
“My wife and I talked about how to keep the sport alive,” he said. “When you pick up a newspaper, or listen to the news, and you put a kid and gun in the same sentence, it’s a negative. We wanted to do something positive.
“To show how safe we were, before we teach (the kids), I said ‘Why not get the cops involved? That will help them too.’ Most of the kids at this age think cops are the bad guys. We want them to know they are working people, just like us.
“We have to pay our own way and this raises money for that, but the main reason (for the event) is to show a positive between guns and kids.”
The kids were ages 12 and 13. Pass explained parents and coaches helped make the challenge successful.
“It’s a lot of fun. The kids enjoy it,” Pass said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and that means a lot. It gets them out of the house, too, out from in front of the TV. These guns aren’t as easy to shoot as the video game guns.”
Josh Schuman and his son, Isaiah, 12, competed for the third time in the competition Saturday.
“It’s a good opportunity for the kids that come out to be with the cops and be able to shoot with them,” Schuman said. “They have a lot of fun shooting against them. It’s good for the kids and the community, and for the cops as well.
“I guess they kind of get a bad rep, so, it’s good to get them to come out and see them interact with the kids, and you know, there could be some future cops here.”
Isaiah, who has been shooting for three years, said he enjoys the competition.
“It’s something to do because I’m home-schooled, so, there’s not many other things to do,” he said. “So, this is kind of like sport (for me) because I’m not very athletic or anything. So, this is the only sport I do.
“Everybody’s really friendly here. It’s not so friendly that they’re going to go easy on you or anything. They’re going to make you learn and stuff.”
Third-year competitor Grant Pulliam, 13, said the kids have beaten the cops every year of the competition, and did again Saturday. He said the coaches and fellow competitors offer tips for helping everyone get better.
“This is pretty fun,” he said. “Most of the competitions last a lot longer than this, but this is more laid-back and for fun than anything else.
“Shooting was all I’ve wanted to do. I saw that in fifth-grade and was like, ‘Might as well try it out’ and I loved it.”
Taylor Willoughty, 12, has been apart of the 4-H club for four years and said it’s fun to get medals and trophies, but that’s not the most important thing. “It’s good daddy-daughter time,” she said.
“This is a good experience in teaching them control, accuracy and patience, definitely patience,” said Dennis Willoughty, Taylor’s father. “I don’t remember when I was a kid having any of this when I was growing up. She said she wanted to get into BB (competition) last year and I was like, ‘OK, we’ll check it out.’ She stuck with it and she enjoys it. In fact, she was mad because it ended last year and she had to wait until November for it to start back up.”
Taylor added that the competitions help her get out and meet new competitors across the state.
“It’s fun and you get to go on adventures to new places and discover new places in other counties,” she said. “It’s really, super fun because I’m not sitting at home doing nothing.”