Since the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division began offering firearms safety training nearly 65 years ago, it has certified more than 1.3 million students – an average of about 20,000 per year.
While conservation officers are intimately involved in the program, the reality is it wouldn’t be possible without the thousands of volunteers who hold classes and field days in communities throughout the state. The same goes for the DNR’s other safety education programs, such as ATV and snowmobile safety and bowhunter education.
There are more than 6,000 volunteer safety instructors in Minnesota, and some of them have been a part of the program since its earliest days. This spring, the DNR Enforcement Division recognized one instructor who’s been teaching for 60 years; 14 who’ve been teaching 50 years; 16 who’ve been teaching 40 years; and 36 who’ve been teaching for 30 years.
"The dedication of our volunteer instructors is nothing short of phenomenal," said Capt. Jon Paurus, education/safety training programs manager for the DNR Enforcement Division. "They truly are the backbone of our safety training programs and the reason these programs continue to be so successful."
Some instructors plan and hold one class each year. Others provide several offerings, and still others teach on multiple topics, becoming go-to resources in their communities when it comes to enjoying the outdoors safely. They work closely with local conservation officers and regional training officers, recruit other volunteer instructors, and do their best to meet their communities’ educational demands.
"Our instructors’ commitment to safety education means there are fewer recreation-related injuries and fatalities today than in the past," Paurus said. "It’s humbling to work with people who give so freely of themselves so others can learn to safely and ethically enjoy Minnesota’s natural resources."
See mndnr.gov/events/safety_training.html for a full list of safety training classes currently scheduled. Anyone interested in taking a class – or required to take one – should keep in mind that many classes fill up quickly.