Education is invaluable. Proper training goes a long way in all aspects of life, especially with firearms. I took my concealed carry class at FirstChoice Firearms with instructors Tracy McKinney and Steven Dabbs last Saturday. The classroom experience sets apart anyone who takes that instruction if they want a working knowledge of firearms whether they want to own one or not. Owning a firearm isn't for everyone, and no one should own  one without proper training.

I've been a shooter all my life and grew up in a home that respected firearms. My dad taught me early on to treat every gun as if it were loaded and how to handle them. When I was in high school, I took an agriculture education class, and part of that curriculum was a hunter safety course. Things have changed since 1980.

It was a different time back then and we were allowed to bring our gun (no ammunition) to school for training. School shootings were unheard of and we were responsible with our firearms. We weren't able to take the weapon to our lockers or walk down a hall, but we did take them to the shop area of the agriculture building and check them in with the instructor for the day.

In that class, we were taught how to walk with a firearm through the woods and when to have a firearm loaded and when to make sure it's unloaded. Safety first was the entire theme of the program.

Having grown up around firearms, I have a healthy respect for them and I thought I knew about everything there was to know about handling a firearm. I was wrong.

When I have a technician come to the newspaper for a repair or general maintenance, I always approach it like I know nothing about the work being done. While the expert may tell me a lot of things I already know, he or she may tell me something I don't. That's how I went into this class – as if I had a clean slate and this was the first I had been in this type of instruction.

I've seen many advertisements for making your concealed carry license online, and one ad even claimed they could have you finished in 30 minutes or less. Let me say firsthand, a person needs to know what they're doing to handle a firearm. No one needs to take anything regarding firearms for granted, and even if you think you're an expert, there still may be things to learn.

Many of my friends told me that taking the course online was adequate. I'm glad I did the all-day course.

The instructors dug deep to train us on everything from purchasing a firearm to handling, cleaning, shooting and storage. There are around 80 pages in Kentucky's training course and we covered every page, plus watched a 90-minute DVD of attorneys going over legalities.

Sometimes listening to attorneys talk about the law can be boring, but I didn't think this was at all. I hung on every word. Maybe it was the journalism in my blood, but I was hungry to know as much as possible. I greatly appreciate the instructors’ diligence and the fact that this class goes by the book. Tracy and Steven left no stone unturned and I'm a better gun owner because of it.    

If you own a firearm of any type, don't assume you know everything about it. Take a proper training course. Even if you don't own a firearm, take a course.

Anyone can make assumptions, but if you don't become educated first-hand, you'll never know for sure. Safety first.

If you're a hunter, take a course. Any hunting accident is one too many. Know your firearm and know how to safely use it.  

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