Lt. Tracey Barnes. left, instructs Rosa Harris on how to properly hold and fire her .38 caliber pistol during the Albany Police Department’s gun safety class Saturday at the APD’s pistol range.
ALBANY -- It is two years old and it continues to have a waiting list for admission.
The Albany Police Department's basic firearms course attracted 11 women and four men to the Law Enforcement Center for classroom instruction Saturday morning. After lunch it was off to the pistol range for live firing as the budding sharpshooters came to know their weapons.
Gun instructor and police Lt. James Williams said at the beginning of class, "With this class you are going to be able to identify guns as semi-automatic, automatic or revolver. Learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. But first and always it is about safety, safety, safety."
As the classroom instruction went on for more than two hours, Williams must have said the word "safety" at least 100 times. In order to shoot to stop an attacker from harming them or a third person the class members must first learn how to handle the gun safely, he said.
"Always keep the barrel pointed down," Williams said. "You've seen pictures with hunters pointing their guns up? Remember the old saying, 'What goes up must come down,'" -- including bullets.
The pistol range near Turner Field Municipal Golf Course was where the students got to practice what they learned about their stance, holding, pointing and firing the handgun.
Silhouette targets were set up seven yards from the firing line. The distance is dictated by the statistics, Williams said, that show the most likely distance an attacker will make his intentions clear.
Rosa Harris, one of the first students on the firing line, aimed her late father's .38-caliber revolver at the target -- and the bullet hit the target on her first try.
The classmates shouted encouragement, "You go girl! That's it! She hit it! Yes!"
Stepping back from firing, Harris said she felt great. The gun felt good in her hand and she hit the target.
"Three out of four is not bad," Harris said. "The first one went right in the center. I like it!"
Harris, like many who take the course, said she had been a victim of burglars at her Northwest Albany home. She also planned to do some missionary work that could involve gang territory.
"I don't want to have to use it," Harris said, "but I'll carry it and I will."
Following Williams' advice on safety, Harris said she was going to get a new handgun, a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic with a safety switch on it.
Before the hands-on training at the pistol range other classroom instruction included two hours of the legal issues involved with gun ownership from Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards. Free gunlocks were handed out to participants.
The next class is planned for the fall. Classes fill up quickly so it would be best to apply early. Applications will be available from the front desk at the Law Enforcement Center.