Payson Resident Educates About Firearms

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Charlie Thompson was sitting in his chair one afternoon when he got a phone call from a California couple asking if there was a range in Payson where they could rent a pistol and learn how to shoot a gun.

The couple told him they had never fired a weapon before, but intended to go to the Jim Jones Range and start shooting.

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Charlie Thompson

Thompson, 67-year-old, is well acquainted with the Rim Country's rich tradition of guns, hunting and lending a helping hand and is virtually an expert in firearms, and instinctively went into help mode deciding that in order to circumvent someone possibly shooting themselves in the foot, he had better take the couple under his wing.

"They asked if we had pistols they could rent. Well, I told them we didn't rent guns but that I would meet them at the range," he said.

With him, Thompson brought a .22 caliber rifle and pistol, a .223 rifle, an AR15 and a .45 automatic pistol.

Because the couple told Thompson they had never even owned a gun, let alone shoot one, he started them with the .22's and progressed to the .45 auto.

"The look on their faces was priceless," Thompson said.

"It was so rewarding to see their expressions and attitudes towards guns change as they learned how to use them."

He said that after they finished, the couple told Thompson that they didn't have the fear of guns they did before.

Thompson wants to help people in Rim Country enjoy that tradition to its fullest, but wants also to educate them how to enjoy it safely, so he volunteers his time and ammo to accomplish that goal.

"Outdoor sports and shooting are part of the community and history up here," said Thompson.

"But we have a volatile mix now as more people from cities who aren't as familiar with guns move here."

He said that he wants to get people who are not very familiar with guns to learn in a controlled setting at the range, rather than in surrounding forests as has frequently been the case in the past.

Thompson said that in the 40 years he has lived in Rim Country, it has become more dangerous to use forest lands as impromptu ranges because more people use them now. It is also better to learn at a range.

Thompson is a member of the Tonto Rim Sports Club and spends a lot of his time at the Jim Jones Range where he assists both young and old in how to safely handle firearms.

Now to be fair, Thompson isn't all that benevolent in his volunteer work, he readily admits that he does it for selfish reasons.

Thompson said that one of the primary reasons he does what he does is to teach people that it isn't the gun that can be dangerous, it is how it is used.

Thompson said the most enjoyment he gets is from working with kids.

"Kids have a natural curiosity about guns, and if we can teach them at a young age about the dangers of handling firearms improperly, we can circumvent a lot of problems in the future," said Thompson.

He recently became involved with a group of kids through the Payson Parks and Recreation Department who wanted to learn about archery.

Archery is not Thompson's field of expertise, but he is helping set up an archery range for the kids.

Perhaps the spirit of community service isn't as foreign in this modern, time-scarce world as many of us think it is -- just look at Thompson.

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