By John Zaktansky
The Daily Item
For nearly 20 years, Fred Gast, of Watsontown, has taught people of all ages the importance of gun safety.
On Saturday, he will offer an unusual family-based introduction to guns program beginning at 10 a.m. at the CAMO Outdoors Expo at the Central Pennsylvania Wesleyan Campground west of New Columbia.
"In today's culture more than ever, it is important that we all learn to be extremely responsible with guns," Gast said. "It all starts with education. Learning the fundamentals and practicing them can save lives."
Gast is merging information taught through the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle program and the Pennsylvania Game Commission's hunter-trapper education program along with his experiences into one comprehensive session aimed at teaching children and their families what they need to know to be safe around firearms.
"In hunter education classes, so much is focused on proper ethics. Hunting is a sport where there aren't referees watching every play," Gast said. "But the same can be said about gun handling in general. You might be able to control your child's access to guns in your own home, but what if they come across one at a friend's place or in public? Will they handle the situation responsibly?"
Gast was first certified as a firearms educator in 1995 through the game commission's training program and has been actively running sessions ever since.
"My father was a hunter and competitive target shooter so I was around guns at a young age. I had my first .22 rifle at age 12 and a 16-gauge shotgun at 16, with a BB gun before the .22 like most kids back then," he said. "But my dad was careful not to give me free access to firearms until I had demonstrated that I was extremely responsible with guns and was old enough to understand and respect them."
No matter how old you are, Gast said, fundamentals are critical to successful gun safety.
"Whether you are a young shooter caught up in the excitement of the first hunt or a hunter 15 or 20 years down the line who gets overly casual with how a firearm is handled, practicing the fundamentals are so important," he said. "We're fortunate that there are so few accidents in hunting, but if you look at the archives of the accidents that do happen, typically they involve a family member or a friend. That is also the case in non-hunting accidents involving guns in the home. It is important to be safe with guns not only for your own safety, but for the people you care for the most."
The CAMO Outdoors Expo offers a slew of free outdoors activities for children such as a pedal tractor pull and nature program with naturalist Jon Beam on Friday night and a fishing derby, archery shoot, BB gun shoot, kayaking, barrel train ride and much more on Saturday. Trapshooting and turkey calling competitions are also planned.
For more information, visit outdoorscamo.com or call (570) 541-6246.
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