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NORTH BEND — More than a dozen kids sat with their parents in the pews of Hauser Community Church as Derek LeBlanc describes how to load and unload a semi-automatic rifle Wednesday night.

As the founder and chief instructor for the nonprofit foundation Kids S.A.F.E., Safety and Firearms Education, LeBlanc travels Oregon teaching kids what to do if they come across a gun as well as proper gun safety.  

“Parents are realizing that even if they don’t have guns in the home, their kids could have an accident in someone else’s (home),” LeBlanc said. “That’s why I am trying to make it palatable for everyone because I don’t want people to not want to come just because they don’t have firearms.”  

However, LeBlanc branches out to include a variety of other factors that contribute to gun safety, including bullying, toy guns, and even video game violence. He stresses that these things can teach kids bad habits that desensitize them from the reality of firearms.

“There’s no reset button on my gun. Once I pull the trigger, I can’t get that bullet back,” LeBlanc tells the class.  

While many kids in the class have experience with various firearms, some children held a real gun for the very first time. Such is the case for 6-year-old Paige Clark of Coos Bay as she stepped up for her turn to practice with LeBlanc. Firmly gripping the handle, she kept her ‘boogerpicker’ away from the trigger, as instructed.

“In our society, we teach our kids how to swim, we teach our kids about fire safety, we teach our kids about drug safety… I want to be able to expose (gun safety) to the schools because I think this is something that should be taught on a bigger scale than I am doing right now,” LeBlanc said.

Recognizing that gun issues can be a hot-button topic for many, LeBlanc aims to avoid the politics completely.

“This is a-political,” LeBlanc stated. “This is strictly safety. I just don’t want anyone to be hurt with a firearm.”

For more information, to make a donation, or for a schedule of upcoming classes, check out www.kidssafefoundation.org or call 541-731-7200. You can also email Kids S.A.F.E. at kidssafefoundation@gmail.com

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Photographer Bethany Baker can be reached at 541-269-1222, or by email at bethany.baker@theworldlink.com

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