Kids Firearm Safety Class

Instructor Derek LeBlanc, of the Kids S.A.F.E. (Safety Around Firearms Education) Foundation, talks with students at a class at Jefferson Elementary School on Sunday.

As a certified firearms instructor, Derek LeBlanc was glad to teach people to handle weapons. But the knowledge that children might have access to them began to nag at him.

The Eugene man knew there were children's firearm safety programs, but to him, they seemed dated. So he created his own: Kids Safety Around Firearms Education, or Kids S.A.F.E. for short. 

The nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization is wrapping up its first year, and LeBlanc is taking his message on the road.

On Sunday, he was at Jefferson Elementary School to give his safety reminders to a group of 23 children and adults. At 6 p.m. May 22, he plans to repeat the presentation at Albany Christian School. Interested organizations can contact him via his website at https://kidssafefoundation.org/ or his cellphone, 541-731-7200.

LeBlanc draws some of his material from programs like "Eddie Eagle," the National Rifle Association's safety program. Like Eddie, he reminds children of the four things they need to do if they see a gun: Stop. Don't touch. Run away. Tell a grownup.

On Sunday in Jefferson, he took that message another step by reminding his audience it isn't always easy to tell what a real gun looks like. Some real guns can look like pellet guns, paintball guns or even plain old plastic toys, but the bullets they shoot are real — and unlike a video game, there's no "reset" button on reality.

Demi Rodriguez, 9, said he was surprised to see LeBlanc's pictures of real handguns painted purple, or bright pink and sky blue.

Demi came, he said, "to learn more things I didn't know about guns before. Like, they come in different colors, and sometimes they look fake, but they're actually real." 

Some of the younger people in the audience Sunday admitted they enjoyed Nerf gun wars with one another. LeBlanc said he understood, but that he would pass out targets at the end of the presentation, and he urged the children to use them instead. 

"I don't want kids to get in the habit of pointing a gun at another person, even if it's fake," he told the group, adding: "I know I'm taking all the fun out of Airsoft and Nerf guns. I'm sorry! I'm trying to save lives." 

Gun safes, trigger locks and lock boxes all are good tools, LeBlanc told the adults present, but children should still know the basic rule: Don't touch.

"Guns are everywhere in our society, so we want kids to learn what not to do," he said.

Kids S.A.F.E. sells its own T-shirts, putting the proceeds back toward the foundation. In white letters on a black background, they read "#boogerpicker." 

"That's my number-one safety," LeBlanc explained, holding up his index finger, pointed straight at the ceiling. "As long as I keep that finger straight, I can pick my nose, but I can't fire my gun."

Ashley Trefethen of Jefferson bought a T-shirt. She brought three children to Sunday's presentation and said she hoped her youngest, 5, would wear it.

"He thinks guns are awesome," she said, shaking her head. "I want him to be a little safer and realize they're not a toy."

Heather Decker picked up targets for her children to use at home with BB and pellet guns. She said she brought them to the presentation to help reinforce safety rules.

"As a parent, you know they might not always listen to you, but they might listen to somebody else," she said.

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