Southern Nevadans are snapping up guns at a near-record pace. That means more firearms classes are cropping up at armories, gun stores and weapons ranges across the valley.
The Metropolitan Police Department announced a 58 percent jump in handgun registrations last month in Clark County, bringing the number of registered handguns countywide to 1.2 million.
Clark County Shooting Complex range specialist Kip Rahmig suspects that fewer than half of the county’s 25,000 new registrants have fired a weapon, a figure he’ll look to improve through basic gun safety classes that recently began at the shooting complex. The sessions are offered three times a week.
“We are probably seeing 30 percent (of new owners) that have never fired a weapon before, and they purchased one because the don’t want the government telling them they can’t have a gun,” Rahmig said during a class this month. “It seems like every time (President Barack) Obama opens his mouth lately, he sells a million more guns. All we want to do is make sure people know how to use them.”
With high-profile shootings in the U.S. fueling renewed interest in state and federal gun control , Rahmig figures there has never been a better time to get back to gun safety basics.
His course offers participants supervised access to live fire range training after a walkthrough on gun handling, cleaning and storage.
Handguns and rifles firing elsewhere at the complex sounded like popcorn kernels bouncing around a microwave as the former Idaho police officer explained how to properly draw, hold, aim and fire a handgun.
“Our main reason for doing this is for the public,” Rahmig said. “It’s 100 percent service when you come to this facility. We want to make sure you leave with all the information there is to have about these weapons. If we can stop one person from getting injured from an accidental discharge, then that’s what we’re here for.”
North Las Vegas resident Eric Jones, one of a handful of attendees at a recent course, purchased a 9 mm Beretta this month.
Jones said he is a former member of the U.S. Navy but rusty with his firearms training. Attending the course was especially important, he said, with two children around the house.
“I’ve been out of the military for about 10 years,” the Veteran s Affairs hospital administrator said. “My daughter was assaulted a few weeks ago. She’s 19, going to UNLV, so I figured it’s about time I had something around the house.
“I’m from Chicago. For me, this is the suburbs . You know, something like that’s not supposed to happen. But I guess you never know.”
Rahmig said he has come to expect more than a dozen attendees for the average weekend class.
So has Kim Smith, an instructor with Guns and Ammo Garage, where she and other National Rifle Association-certified instructors teach six similarly beginner -friendly handgun training classes to adults and children older than 10.
Last month, the store kicked off a monthly Eddie Eagle Gun Safe program for youths in kindergarten through third grade.
Smith emphasized that there are no firearms present during the course, which features a curriculum focused solely on four safety steps for children if they see a gun: stop, don’t touch, leave the area and tell an adult.
“I’ve only been on board since January, but I’d say we’ve seen a lot of interest in these family-oriented classes over the last few weeks,” Smith said recently. “Unfortunately, it’s sometimes an awful event that tends to attract that attention, but we could see there was a lot of interest and a need for a more kid-friendly program. We get the message across to kids to stay away from any guns and other unsafe objects they may find and to stay safe.”
The Range 702 recently put its own twist on the basic gun safety course, introducing a twice-weekly class for area teachers .
Instructor Jeff Frichette said the free class aims to reflect concerns raised by the past year’s headlines.
“There’s a lot of reasons to do it when you look at current events over the past few months,” Frichette said. “Teachers can carry a gun in class with written permission, so it’s really a community service to make sure they’re as comfortable and safe as possible.”
The majority of teachers in training are first-time gun owners, he added.
“Their exposure to guns has been limited, but their minds have been open, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3839.