Guns are a part of American life. Americans have a right to bear firearms, according to the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
Some people disqualify themselves from that right by committing felonies. Others lose the right to own or possess firearms because they have been admitted to mental health facilities against their will, for example.
Americans who exercise their right to own firearms have, in my humble opinion, an obligation to know how to load, handle, fire, unload and store their weapons safely.
You can take classes or learn the basics from skilled shooters. But getting used to a gun takes practice.
The Wildlife Resources Division of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources provides 18 firing ranges around the state where citizens may learn to safely fire their firearms in a controlled, safe environment.
There is no charge to use a firearm range, but visitors must have a Georgia Outdoor Recreation Permit — also known as GORP — if they are between the ages of 16-64 and want to use Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) for activities other than hunting or fishing.
Some Georgians are exempt from the need for a Gorp:
- Youths aged 15 and under.
- Adults 65 and older.
- Individuals who have a valid WMA License, Honorary License, Sportsmen’s License, Lifetime License or Three-Day Hunting and Fishing License.
The state’s second most popular firearm range is north of Lake Lanier and Lula, GA, a couple of miles east of GA Route 365 at Wilson Shoals WMA.
We all think it’s reckless for people to exercise their right to purchase a fast motorcycle and hop on it with no training or understanding about how start, aim, drive or stop safely.
You have the right to own a gun. You don’t have the right to harm other people because you won’t take the time to learn firearm safety.
Nice people who are armed — but clueless about how to fire their pistols or revolvers or rifles — are not any better off than folks who choose to be unarmed.
It’s a fact that unarmed people rarely shoot themselves accidentally by fiddling with loaded guns. Armed people who are not trained in safely handling firearms accidentally shoot themselves all the time.
When visiting a Firearm Range, you will need to bring your own firearms and ammunition.
You cannot purchase or rent guns or ammo, but if you forget to bring ear protection, as supplies last, they’ll give you an inexpensive but effective pair to stick in your ears to deaden the gunfire.
You may bring your own targets or you may find a few available at no charge that you may use, but quantities are limited.
You should not expect to get free professional lessons or earn any type of certification at the public firearm ranges, however, some are staffed by highly trained and skilled personnel.
One of the men who works at the Wilson Shoals Firearm Range is Mike Thompson. He is friendly, helpful and absolutely dedicated to making sure that all shooting range regulations are followed.
The rules are simple.
There are times when range users are allowed to fire at will and times when no one is allowed to have any loaded weapons in hand, so that shooters can change or observe their targets.
There’s no drinking or smoking, no machine guns, and firearms must be unloaded, cased or have its action open, except when it is at firing line and is being used for firing.
Marianna Jarret and her husband, Jeff, visited the Wilson Shoals shooting range “to do something together.” This was Marianna’s first visit and by the time she left we thought her new name should be “dead-eye.”
Ten Rules for Firearm Safety
Directions to Wilson Shoals WMA Firearms Range From Gainesville
- Take Hwy 365 North, 11 miles from exit 24.
- Turn right on Mud Creek Road and go one mile.
- Turn left on Old Cornelia Highway.
- Go a tenth of a mile and turn right onto Yonah Road.
- Go 2.1 miles and turn left on Grant Mill Road.
- The range will be one mile down that gravel road on the right.
As the sign on the right says, shooting range hours are:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturdays
- 9 AM until 7 PM
- or until sunset, whichever is earlier
- 12 noon until 7 PM
- 12 Noon until 5 PM
If you choose to exercise your right to bear arms, please exercise common sense too. Learn how to use your weapons in the most skilled and safe ways possible.