For their final intensive of the 2009-10 school year, 12 Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy students completed the 90-hour Arizona Gun Safety Program for Arizona high school students.
According to Matt and Sherrie Seibert, who helped write the program and worked with NELA teacher Charles Mentken to teach the class, the NELA students were the first in the state to complete the entire course.
According to NELA sophomore Jackson McCrea, the purpose of the class was to "educate students in the proper way to handle firearms. We will all probably come in contact with firearms sometime and we need to do it safely."
The Seiberts wrote the new program under the direction of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Sherrie Seibert said it took two years to write the program that the Arizona Department of Public Safety approved in 2008.
Students enrolled in the class received permission from their parents, as with any intensive at NELA.
McCrea was surprised by Arizona's gun law and how open it is.
"Arizona allows concealed weapons, which raises the question of whether anyone above 21 should be able to carry a weapon," McCrea said. "They need some variety of training."
The class included information about knives and blades.
On a practical matter, McCrea learned things about "if I ever want to carry a weapon for personal use, and if I ever find a weapon how to handle it."
The Seiberts, owners of INSIGHT Firearms Training Development, were excited about teaching the program at NELA.
"We like to provide a healthy respect and responsibility toward firearms. Also, we want to provide an enjoyable experience," Sherrie Seibert said. "We want to continue education while expressing Second Amendment rights."
The main objective, Matt Seibert said, "Is to change the paradigm. When the U.S. Constitution was written, guns were a part of the family and used for food and protection. Today, movies and video games show a different use for weapons."
The goal of the gun safety program is not to be pro or anti gun, but to present both sides of the issue.
Mentken teaches social studies at NELA and said the gun safety course fits into discussion about Second Amendment rights.
"The students are learning about the history of firearms. It is exciting to know it has never been taught before in the state," he said.
The 90-hour curriculum covers firearms safety, the history of firearms, the Second Amendment, law and community, firearms operations and marksmanship, range safety and range practical, and lifelong shooting sports and community project.
The students spent two days learning how to safely handle rifles and shotguns. They shot .22 caliber long-rim rifles at the High Noon indoor shooting range in Prescott Valley. A week later, they traveled to the Prescott Valley Trap and Skeet Club where they used shotguns to shoot clay targets.
Mentken said the students were excited about shooting, "But they can't do it without the background information."
George Expenhain, the Prescott Valley Trap and Skeet instructor in charge of scholastic clay targets, helped the students "get used to a shotgun. I also introduce them to the sport."
Mentken said Ruger, J&G Gun Sales, and Buckey O'Neill's Gun Shop donated money to help pay the $20 student fee and to buy the ammunition the students used at the ranges.