Shooting guns in the Capitol

Hunter education program lets legislators pull the trigger

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2006

Legislators and their staffs went on a shooting rampage, bagging would-be deer, bear and elk in Room 106 of the Alaska Capitol on Friday afternoon.

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There was no blood, but plenty of popcorn, pizza and shooting gallery bravado.

The intent was to showcase the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's hunter education program, but it ended up more as a legislative tension breaker.

In small clusters, legislators and aides trickled into the room and grabbed converted pellet guns.

The guns, donated to the state, shoot a laser beam that is aimed at an animal target projected on a large screen.

Aiming the plastic guns, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and Jesse Kiehl, an aide to Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, took serious issue with some deer wandering across the screen.

Later, Fish and Game educator Kirk Lingofelt projected other images of the deer on the screen, showing the location of the animal's heart, just above its front shoulder.

The idea of the exercise is to show students the basics of marksmanship, he explained.

For the next eight weeks, Lingofelt will tour Southeast Alaska towns, teaching hunter education courses offered through Fish and Game's Hunter Information and Training Program.

Some of the towns visited on the way include Juneau, where clinics are under way on Saturday and next Monday and Tuesday, as well as Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell, Petersburg, Haines and Sitka.

Among the offerings are bow hunting, waterfowl hunting and map and compass courses.

"We only get to Southeast every few years," Lingofelt said, adding that the program staff decided to make a quick stop at the Legislature this year.

Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, said she thought it was "nifty" to get a chance to target practice in the Capitol.

Wilson and her staff said they didn't mind the constant rat-a-tat of faux gunfire, even though it was right next to their first-floor legislative office.

"It's a little fun at the end of the week," said Wilson aide Rebecca Rooney.

Wilson, who has a concealed-weapon permit, said she takes a gun training course every two years. She used to hunt regularly but stopped about four years ago. The classes are important, she said, because it's important to retain proper gun-handling habits.

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