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Gainesville police offer gun safety course for people of all backgrounds
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Ron Barbani shoots a Star 9mm “Firestar” semi-automatic pistol Saturday during the Gainesville Police Department’s first citizens’ pistol safety course. Barbari, a Gainesville personal trainer, is wearing a GoPro helmet camera on his arm. See the video at - photo by NAT GURLEY

Keisha Morrow had never shot a gun in her life.

“I just thought it would be something interesting that I never really thought about doing before,” Morrow said. “I’m very nervous, but I’m sure I’ll learn a lot.”

Morrow was one of 19 men and women gathered at the Gainesville Police Department’s shooting range Saturday morning taking part in the department’s inaugural citizens’ pistol safety course. The hands-on live fire training came a couple of days after the participants took a classroom course.

“The taxpayers’ dollars taught us to shoot and be safe,” said Lt. Jay Parrish with the department. “This is our way to give back that knowledge.”

Morrow was one of the few who had never handled a gun before; class participants ranged from complete novices to expert hunters. Carol McClendon had some experience prior to the class, but was still eager to learn more about self protection.

“Several years ago, I was traveling halfway across country with my two young daughters and I hit a deer in the road,” McClendon said. “There was a noise under my car, and I didn’t want to pull over. It was 7:30 at night but it was very dark. So I drove another 15 miles to the next gas station.

“I felt very vulnerable and I don’t want to feel that way anymore.”

The Saturday shooting lesson began with a safety overview and demonstration. The students then split into groups of four, each taking their turn with their practice targets. Gainesville police provided individual instruction.

Parrish said the department likely will hold another gun safety course in early 2014.

“I’m a strong believer in the Constitution and the Second Amendment,” he said. “But with it comes a great responsibility.

“Gun ownership is a right, but you have to be responsible in using it.”

The department was unable to provide guns for participants; they either used their own or borrowed from a friend or fellow classmate.

Morrow borrowed the gun she used, but after coming off the range from her first experience, said she probably would get one of her own.

“It was very, very fun,” she said. “My hands are a little sore.

“I might have a new hobby, going to the gun range,” she added, laughing.

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