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Firearm donation will benefit youth
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Responsible gun ownership begins with education, and a donation from one Mississippi agency to another will help enable the state's youngest residents to learn safety and skill when handling firearms.
The Mississippi 4-H Shooting Sports Program just received a donation of 120 firearms from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The firearms, mostly .22 caliber rimfire rifles, previously were used in hunter education classes.
Jonathan Peeples, Mississippi State University Extension Service associate in wildlife and fisheries, is responsible for the Mississippi 4-H Shooting Sports Program. He said the rifles will improve the opportunities for Mississippi youth to learn safety and marksmanship skills through the program.
"Last year, we had more than 600 trained volunteers working with 1,200 youth in counties across the state. Many of those volunteers use their own equipment, so shortages are inevitable in many areas," Peeples said. "This donation will improve the shooting sports program, especially for young people who do not have their own rifles."
Shooting sports participants can select eight hours of training in rifles, shotguns, pistols, muzzleloaders and/or archery. They learn safe and responsible use of firearms and archery equipment, hunting techniques, and wildlife habitat management and conservation. They may or may not take their skills to a competitive level.
"Most homes in this part of the country have firearms, and this program teaches respect for the firearms, discipline and responsibility," Peeples said.
Peeples said he is receiving applications from county Extension offices for the donated rifles to be used for local 4-H shooting sports. Most county programs do not have their own guns for the training and depend on volunteers and 4-H'ers to have guns for use in the classes.
"This donation is just one of several ways the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and our county Extension offices work together to educate young people in outdoor sports," Peeples said.
Stephen Adcock, hunter education administrator with MDWFP, said the donation is part of the department's efforts to promote shooting sports in the state.
"The 4-H Shooting Sports Program compliments our hunter education classes very well. It reinforces lessons learned plus gives participants the opportunity to take part in competitive shooting," Adcock said. "Marksmanship is very important in successful hunts. Hunters will be more likely to be sure of their target, which is important for safety as well as harvesting."
Adcock said he believes competition promotes responsibility, ethics, skills and familiarity with the firearms. The hunter education course is 10 hours of classes that teach game laws and wildlife identification. Both hunter education classes and the shooting sports program teach ethics, responsibility and safety.
Contact: Jonathan Peeples, (662) 325-3174