As seen in the October 15th, 2003 Suffolk Life Article on the SAFE/NRA Women on Target Clinic on October 4th, 2003.

                          SAFE, Keeping L.I. On Target

By Tim Charles


L
ike it or not, firearms ownership and the outdoors have a long traditional relationship that goes back to the earliest history in America. America's culture evolved upon the freedom of its new citizens, who were able to enjoy the bounty the new nation had to offer. The fish and game that were a seemingly endless resource at the time no longer belonged to just the king and his cronies. State constitutions firmly stated that fish and wildlife belonged to the people. Hunting, and the use and ownership of firearms to bring home the bacon, as well as for self-protection, became an intricate part of the American psyche. Owning a gun, and knowing how to use it, were as natural as walking and talking to our early American predecessors. The activities and beliefs of today's sportsmen and women are seeped in these traditions and the proud heritage associated with them. For many law-abiding citizens their right to own a firearm is as precious as their right to enjoy other freedoms the values of this country are based upon.

John Cushman of Brookhaven has been an advocate for sportsmen and women, and for the lawful ownership of firearms for well more than 30 years. In the early 1970s he became the youngest member of New York's Conservation Council, a civic organization that oversees the management of this state's Department of Environmental Conservation. In 1973 he was also instrumental in founding the Suffolk Alliance of Sportsmen, Inc., a local organization of hunting, fishing and shooting clubs that is still the voice for Long Island sportsmen and women to this day. Chances are, if an issue involving firearms or the rights of sportsmen is being publicly debated, John Cushman will be nearby.

Always looking for a better way to send the message, in 1993 John worked to form the Sportsmen's Association for Firearms Education. SAFE's key word is education, and this is what the organization focuses upon. Its primary mission is to educate the public, the media and elected officials about the various aspects of legal gun ownership in American society. It is no secret that the ownership and use of firearms is a controversial issue in most circles today. For many people who are unfamiliar with firearms, the use or even the mere presence of one can be disconcerting. This is understandable, for the unlawful or unsafe use of firearms is a troublesome issue. John Cushman and the members of SAFE understand this.

In an effort to educate non-shooters about firearms use, SAFE sponsored its first Women on Target event on October 4, 2003 at the Long Island Shooting Center on Freeman Avenue in Islip. With only a little public posting on the event, 56 women came to participate. The program provided them with an introduction to safe gun handling and proper firearm storage techniques, as well as the fundamentals of marksmanship. Most had never handled or used a firearm before, but they were anxious to learn. Claire Yannacone of Patchogue, an educator herself, was typical of the women participating. While Claire had never handled a firearm before, and was admittedly more against gun ownership than in favor of it, she came to learn firsthand what firearms use is about. After experiencing the lawful, safe manner with which firearms should and must be handled, Claire had a better understanding of the rewards of the shooting sports.

To further accomplish its mission, SAFE works to disseminate information to all parties interested in firearms issues. It sponsors forums, such as the Right to Carry Conference it recently sponsored in Hauppauge, inviting local public officials to listen to those matters of importance to proponents of gun ownership. Additionally, SAFE reviews legislation, working to organize support or opposition for those proposed laws that have an impact on lawful gun ownership. SAFE maintains strong affiliations with the NRA, Gun Owners of America and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Bear Arms. With more than 700 members, SAFE is a strong voice for the shooting sports in New York.