BPD gun course

Retired GBI agent and firearms instructor Dale Wiley, center coaches Marah Tatum (left) and Alesha Daniel (right) during a gun safety course hosted by Blackshear PD Saturday.

What kind of gun should I buy? How do I properly load my weapon?

Those are the questions Blackshear Police Department (BPD) aimed to answer last week when they hosted the first in a series of civilian firearms safety classes. Nearly 60 locals registered for the class held at city hall and streamed online Thursday evening then they gathered in smaller groups at the police department gun range Saturday for one-on-one shooting instruction.

BPD’s main objective in offering free firearms training is safety, says Police Chief Chris Wright.

“We’ve seen a real surge in the number of guns bought, more people are expressing an interest in having guns,” Wright says. “Basically, (we want) to make sure folks know the laws and know how to safely operate the guns. So many folks are hurt or killed by accidental discharge of firearms.”

Dale Wiley, part-time BPD officer and firearms instructor, agrees.

“People think of gun safety as keeping your finger off the trigger, don’t have it loaded … that is true, but to me gun safety is also knowing how to use it and knowing how to accurately shoot it,” Wiley says.  “The whole point (of the course) is for people to safely own and carry a gun.”

Wiley is also a retired GBI agent and POST (peace officer standard and training council) certified firearms instructor. He taught the class last week with assistance from BPD Major Robby Boatright.

Topics covered last Thursday during the 2.5 hour long training include where gun owners can and cannot carry their weapons, an overview of laws pertaining to use of force, and shooting fundamentals.

“The fundamentals are the same. The two most important ones are sight alignment and squeezing the trigger,” Wiley says.

What kind of weapon should I carry?

That’s is the most frequently asked question Wiley hears on the topic so he and Boatright also provided insight on the best types of guns to own depending on what purpose buyers intend for their weapon.

Several other officers joined Wiley and Boatright at the range Saturday as safety officers during the shooting instruction segment of the class.

Hands on experience is the only way to really master gun safety, Wiley says.

“It’s one thing to sit in the classroom and hear that, but to see it, feel it and do it  — it’s a hands on thing,” Wiley says.  “We’re putting it into practice (at the range).”

Wright hopes to offer the class every other month or quarterly, depending on community interest. The next one is slated for March, but a date hasn’t been set yet.

“As long as participation is high, we’ll keep doing it regularly,” he told The Times.

The police department accepted 60 registrants last week in an effort to maintain social distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

“Outside of a COVID situation, we would probably open it up to more like 100 (people),” Wright says.