Shooting competition over the 4th puts gun safety first

Allen Rooney has been running the shooting competition during the Fourth of July festivities in Wrangell for eight years now. But for him, it’s more of a firearm safety activity than a shooting competition.

The free event will take place on July 3 from 8 a.m. to noon at the shooting range down past the golf course off Spur Road. Though Rooney is judging entrants on speed and accuracy, he’s more interested in the safety education he brings with it.

“This is a firearm safety activity,” he said. “It’s like anything when you’re dealing with younger people. If you can have them learning something while they’re enjoying something else, a lot of times they don’t even realize that they’re learning.”

Rooney added that his goal is to teach people how to have a safe activity with firearms and how to recognize safe and unsafe behavior for everyone involved.

Last year, children who entered the competition and who correctly recited the four laws of firearm safety were immediately awarded a prize and entered into a drawing.

The four laws can be recited in different ways, but are basically, according to Rooney: “Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded; keep your finger off the trigger until you are shooting; keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; and know what your target is and what’s beyond it.”

Rooney isn’t sure yet what prizes will be awarded this year in the men, women, boys and girls categories but he tries to make the prizes “junior heavy,” meaning the first-place boy and girl will have a bigger prize than the first-place man and woman. Boys and girls categories are for ages 17 and under.

Around 70 people entered last year’s competition, which Rooney has run the same way for all the years. Before shooting starts, all entrants will receive safety and procedural briefings where he talks about how to shoot and he gives practical examples of the safety laws.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction,’ but I explain what it means to do that and what it looks like.”

Shooters will only be allowed to use Rooney’s 9mm carbine and no other firearms will be allowed at the event. They must wear safety glasses and ear protection. Foam earplugs and some safety glasses will be provided for those who don’t have them.

They are also encouraged to show up earlier rather than later. Entrants are divided into groups of 10 or 12 depending on how many people compete.

“At a certain point, you won’t be able to walk up and shoot,” he said. “At a certain point, you’ll have to wait for a group in front of you.”

Results will be tallied after the competition ends and Rooney will notify winners later in the day.


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