Columbia business encourages educating children on guns

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COLUMBIA - Following the tragic accident involving a nine-year-old girl killing her Arizona shooting instructor, a Columbia business stresses the importance of proper gun training.

Target Masters Sales Associate and Firearms Trainer Jim Hill said an Uzi, like the one used in the Arizona case, is a fully-automatic gun, which was probably too powerful for a small child to handle.

"The biggest problem is that - shooting that Uzi - that girl looked rather petite. She couldn't have properly held that gun to even attempt to control it," Hill said. "On a fully-automatic firearm, they ought to be somewhere in their mid-teens I would say just because they need to have that physical capability of controlling a gun."

Hill gives shooting lessons four to six times a week and said it's not unusual for children to receive these lessons, too. He's worked with children as young as kindergarteners.

"I'm going to guess probably somewhere around six [years old] is about as young as you'll really want to deal with," Hill said.

Although that seems young to some, Hill said it's important to expose children to guns so they know what to do when they encounter one.

"Kids are going to always see the mystique of a gun. They see them on TV. They see them at their friend's home," Hill said. "If they are properly trained in the use of a firearm, and they know the potential danger it can pose if mishandled, then I think it's good education."

Jason Baillargeon, Senior Firearms Instructor and Officer for the Columbia Police Department, also said teaching kids about gun use and safety is beneficial.

"The police department does not [work with children and guns], but as a private citizen, I have taught my kids in regards to firearms and how to use them appropriately," Baillargeon said.

Baillargeon said this isn't the same for many families, though.

"It's probably different for every family, specifically with location and where they are in the United States," Baillargeon said. "For me, my kids started fairly young because, being a police officer, I always have firearms in the house due to my profession."

He did not think a specific age should be given for children to handle firearms because it depends on the child.

"Some children may be in an area where they are avid hunters. They want to hunt with mom and dad, and that's fine, that's great," Baillargeon said. "I would just hope that mom and dad would provide that education so no problems happen."