Gun expert emphasizes safety, responsibility


SHERRILL — Veteran gun owners and experts of Central New York shared their insights with new and future gun owners about how to be safe and responsible.

Bill Koury is a salesman at the Vernon National Firearms Trading Company in Sherrill and has been in the gun business for 50 years. For Koury, buying a gun isn’t like buying a car.

“We have to make sure whatever we sell you works for you,” Koury said. “Stay away from anybody who tells you ‘This is the gun for you’.”

Jessica Roberts visited Vernon National Firearms Trading Company with her husband Jacob and her three-year-old son Owen to find her first shotgun. Roberts was in the market for something to go bird hunting with.

Roberts said gun safety is important to her, especially being a mother. “We have a gun safe and with three little kids running around, it’s very important,” she said. “The gun safe stays locked and we’ve talked with them that guns aren’t toys and we don’t let them access them.”

When it comes to buying a pistol, Koury said he walks customers through a series of steps.

“The first thing I look at is the size of a person’s hand so we can fit a handgun with their hand,” Koury said. “Some semi-automatic pistols can be hard to cock back, especially for women, so we make sure they can cock it.”

There’s no one size fits all and Koury advised those in a market for a new handgun to be wary.

“You want to go to someone who will look at your hand, that’s going to ask you what you want to do with it and will explore how much you’re willing to spend for ammunition,” Koury said.

When it comes to storage, Koury said it’s best that handguns and long guns be stored in a safe, with a gunlock on it.

But before even buying a pistol, there needs to be certification. “The first thing you have to do is take a pistol safety course,” Koury said. “Once you get a certificate saying you took that safety course, then you can take it to your county licensing office and apply for a pistol permit.”

The Vernon National Shooting Preserve in Vernon Center offers a basic pistol safety course, where attendees learn everything they need to be responsible.

Teaching it Wednesday, Feb. 5 was Mike Burline, an NRA certified pistol instructor for almost 15 years.

“In this course, I teach nomenclature safety. And safety is something we really emphasize,” Burline said. The first rule people see posted at the Vernon National Shooting Preserve is just that: safety, safety, safety.

Burline said the course is all about safety, including safe storage, safe handling, safe shooting, safe loading, safe unloading and more. On top of this, the NRA instructor does what he can to ensure people leave with a good idea of what is out there for handguns and what they should be looking for. “I advise people to start out with a .22, so they can learn and take lessons,” he said.

There’s only so much he can teach, Burline said. Technically, it is illegal in New York state for a person to handle a handgun with a pistol permit. After the certification course, it could take as much as a year before people can get their permit — and that’s a lot of time for knowledge to go unused.

“Sometimes, it can be frustrating,” Berline said. “You give these people all this information and then they’re not going to get their permit for almost a year down the road. So, I afford people every opportunity. I tell people to call me and come back, get together and go up onto the range. Or, if I can’t I refer them to another instructor.”

Berline’s class kicked off with around 9 people in attendance. He started going through the basics, first starting with trigger discipline.

“Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction,” he said. “Don’t point it at anybody. If you’ve got your gun in your holster, you take it out of the holster with your finger off of the trigger. That’s automatic. Always keep your finger away from the trigger until your ready to shoot.”

Among those attending were Morrisville resident Jessica Heim. “I’m looking to get a pistol for self-defense and protection,” Heim said. “Hopefully, I’ll never need it. But this way I can legally have it in case of an emergency.”

Heim said she has three children at home and there are guns in the house — all locked up.

“Safety is the number one priority,” Heim said. “My father and my brother are licensed pistol permit carriers in Pennsylvania, but this is my first step.”

For Heim, getting her pistol permit will give some peace of mind. “Honestly, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

The one thing Berline wants every person to take away from his course is a sense of responsibility. “A gun is a huge responsibility,” Berline said. “You’re responsible for your actions, so you’re responsible for your gun. It’s your responsibility to think safety all the time, no matter what you’re doing.”

To learn more about the Vernon National Shooting Preserve, visit for more information.


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