The first firearm safety class was conducted in 1955. The course was created in response to concern over too many hunting injuries and fatalities. It originally started as a way to promote safe firearms handling. In the first two years 13,700 students were certified.
The course has evolved over the years; more attention is placed on hunter conduct and ethics. Today’s program now includes sections on bowhunting, tree stand and muzzleloader safety. The curriculum, along with the addition of adult oriented courses and the blaze orange law, has greatly contributed to a steady decline both in non-fatal and fatal firearms accidents. In the years 1998 and 2004 there were no fatalities.
In the early years of the program students age 12 through 15 years old were required to have a firearms safety certificate to purchase a big game license. In 1990 the Minnesota legislature established a law that requires anyone born after December 31, 1979 to successfully complete a firearms safety course to purchase a license to hunt.
The DNR has over 4000 volunteer instructors that train approximately 23,000 students annually. As of 2008, over One Million students have been certified. Volunteers are essential to make this program work. Without volunteers this program would not be successful. The program is taught in nearly every community statewide.