Three Japanese youngsters taking part in the City of Bremerton/Bremerton Central Lions Club student exchange program are heading back home with a bang.
Sixteen-year-olds Kanako Matsutani, Mina Sasaki and Gehshi Toyota visited the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club Monday evening to learn how to safely handle and fire a variety of weapons.
The youngsters from Kure, Japan arrived in Bremerton July 26 and were set to head home Aug. 22. This marks the 44th year of the exchange program with Bremerton’s Sister City.
Bob Battin, who chairs the exchange program, describes himself as a gun enthusiast and advocate and brought most of the weapons for the kids to learn how to safely handle and shoot.
“We’ve done it almost every single year,” he said of the gun range visit. “We contact each of the host parents to make sure it’s okay; if they have a problem with kids coming out to the gun range, that’s okay, too.”
Battin said the fact that firearm ownership is illegal in Japan makes the youngsters’ trip to the range all the more unique.
“This may be their one and only opportunity to fire a weapon in their lifetimes,” he said.
Battin said many of the kids, partly for that reason, often get to Bremerton and ask about visiting the range.
“Over the years, it’s been passed down from kid to kid so they usually ask if they’ll get to go to the gun range,” he said.
When the students arrived at the range Monday evening they signed in and were outfitted with ear and eye protection.
From there, they headed out to a shooting area apart from the main section of the club where they met Marcus Carter, a range officer who went over the ground rules, or “commandments,” for safely handling and firing the weapons.
The first rule, Carter said, is to treat all guns as though they are loaded. Rule Number Two is be careful where you point the weapon.
“Never allow the muzzle to point at anything you don’t want to destroy,” Carter said. “That bullet, when it comes out of there, is going very fast and it will destroy paper targets and it will kill people.”
Carter also cautioned the kids about keeping the weapons low and not aiming or shooting over and above the high dirt mound at the end of the range because there are homes, a park and a school in the area.
“Rule Number Three is your finger cannot be inside the trigger guard until your sights are lined up on the target and you’re ready to shoot,” Carter continued.
And shoot they did. All three of the kids got to fire a .22 pistol and rifle, a .38 revolver, a .45, a lever action .38 rifle and an AR-15.
All three youngsters said they enjoyed the experience and would gladly do it again.
“That’s more hard than I had expected,” Toyota said.
Matsutani said she was surprised by the weight of the guns and various kicks that each one produced when firing.
“It is very heavy,” she said, throwing her shoulders back to mimic the kick of the weapons.