BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. - A group of 20 boys, each around 8-years-old, listened to a brief safety presentation, don safety goggles, and with the help of their fathers and other adult leaders, open fire at paper targets with “BB gun” rifles shooting BBs. They’ll be just some of 2,600 scouts to use this brand-new facility this year.
This is the “Reat Griffin Underwood Memorial BB Gun Range” at the Boy Scouts of America’s Camp Naish in Bonner Springs, Kan.
The range is a project long-planned to replace an aging and unimpressive range structure. It’s already bankrolled by the Boy Scouts, and it has received some $11,000 in additional funding from the Underwood memorial fund since April, when 14-year-old Reat Underwood was one of three people shot to death outside the Jewish Community Campus in Overland Park.
The range allows 8-year-old Bear Scouts a chance to learn firearms safety and shooting skills under supervision, with BBs. Reat learned to shoot there, and his mother says the inclusion of the BB gun range, among several other projects funded by donations to his memorial fund, fits perfectly with her son’s life and interests.
“My dad [Dr.William Corporon, also killed in the attack on April 13] was a hunter and Reat was a hunter and he enjoyed the BB gun range,” Mindy Corporon said in an interview with 41 Action News this week. “When he went to scout camp that's what he looked forward to doing.”
Corporon also rejects questions about whether a shooting range – even one designed only for BB guns, and operated by the Boy Scouts – is an appropriate memorial for a shooting victim.
“It’s at a scout camp where they teach the use of firearms. Where they teach it properly, under supervision,” Corporon said. “That’s how it should be taught, and that's how Reat was taught.”
“It’s not the gun that kills someone; it’s the person that pulls the trigger. And the person who pulls the trigger is who I blame, not the gun,” she added.
Corporon said she has not yet been able to return to Camp Naish, a place she considers too emotional to visit so far – but she will attend a dedication ceremony for the BB gun range on July 18th, when a plaque honoring Reat will be affixed to the wood structure.
The Scouts official in charge of Camp Naish, which sprawls out over 11,000 acres near Kansas Motor Speedway, said the BB gun range has long been the most-popular activity for young campers, and the new and improved version should only add to that experience.
“For most kids the first time they ever pick up a gun is going to be at day camp or bear camp, so we're going to teach them the right and proper way to care for and fire a firearm,” Scout Executive Kenn Miller said. “We would rather have our kids know the proper way to operate and use a firearm. I think it’s an interesting legacy.”