Watertown— The Newtown, Connecticut shooting has ignited national controversy over firearm ownership and safety, especially if children or young adults can access them.
Scott Armstrong is the Vice President of Public Affairs for Longhouse Council Boy Scouts, which covers Central and Northern New York. He is also Founder of “Hot Shots", a shooting camp for beginner cub scouts, 6-10 years of age. The camp teaches young boys how to shoot BB guns, bow and arrows, slingshots, and other agility type of activities. The “Hot Shots” camp is their number one most popular camp, where parents attend with their children.
“For many of the kids, it is their first time shooting” said Mr. Armstrong, “so we provide certified instructors, each child has a parent or guardian supervising them and many of the kids have so much fun, they come back for more.”
In New York State, you have to be 12 years old to shoot a gun-powdered firearm. The first year of camp as a boy scout, kids shoot air rifles and then once they turn 12 years old, they are allowed to shoot a 22 rifle, as well as a 20 and a 12 gauge shot gun. According to Armstrong, every certified instructor at the camps have been trained to teach firearm safety. Armstrong explained that kids are very curious about guns. Boy scouts provide programs, which allow for a safe and monitored place for kids to learn not only how to shoot guns, but about gun safety.
“We understand the scrutiny when it comes to teaching kids how to shoot guns” said Mr. Armstrong, “shooting only takes place at a certified camp, with certified instructors and parent supervision.” Mr. Armstrong, as well as 9 other scout leaders traveled to Newtown, Connecticut to attend the funeral of 6 year old cub scout, Benjamin Wheeler. Mr. Armstrong helped lead the Honor Guard with over 200 scouts and scouters for Benjamin Wheeler’s funeral.
“It was a tough day for all of us” said Armstrong, “a number of scouts and scout siblings were among the victims that day, so it touched the scouting movement very deeply.” According to Mr. Armstrong, the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut should not deter shooting programs for kids. Mr. Armstrong believes that organizations like boy scouts are the best opportunity for kids to learn safe and responsible shooting practices in a controlled environment, under adult supervision.