By Kemit Grafton, Director of the Training Division at OKCGC.  Knowing that it was important to reach the local community, the training division at the OKC Gun Club was founded to bring basic, intermediate, and advanced training to its membership and anyone else in the local community wanting to better understand their firearms and how to properly handle, store, and maintain them.

According to Forbes magazine, the National Shooting Sport Foundation, an industry trade group, estimated there were 21 million sales of firearms in 2020, many to first-time purchasers (Walsh, 2022)*. In addition, the FBI ran 39.7 million background checks in 2020. Many observers expressed the 2020 political climate, and the COVID-19 were the key reasons for this surge. The pandemic and the economic downturn that happened along with safety worries in early 2020 because of nationwide protests were also considered factors in these record-breaking sales of firearms. In addition, there was a spike in sales ahead of the 2020 presidential elections where many felt stricter gun control measures were imminent. The National Shooting Sport Foundation estimates U.S firearms stores sold guns to around 3.2 million first-time purchasers in the first half of 2021, suggesting the demand didn’t fade.

In the summer of 2020, the Oklahoma City Gun Club Vice President, Mark Vaughan felt there was a need to provide firearms training to these many first-time gun owners in the Oklahoma City area. Mark Vaughan and Club President Suzi Rouse put together an outreach committee to address the needs for this community of new gun owners. Mark invited Kemit Grafton to revitalize the gun club Training Division with the mission of providing training to beginning shooters who would like to learn the fundamentals of shooting a handgun safely. The Co-Chairs, Kemit Grafton, Jim Durham, and Jodi Ovelman, formed the training division and with its many volunteers developed several training courses to serve both the members and the community. The curriculum was developed and starting in August 2020 classes were offered in Basic Handgun skills. These courses were based on NRA Fundamentals, which included the NRA Rules for Safe Gun Handling, Home Safety and Storage Procedures, Operation of a Handgun, and Marksmanship skills. The 3-hour course culminated with live-fire training where students learned the shooting fundamentals and range safety rules with personal coaching from the volunteer instructor cadre of NRA Certified Firearms instructors and Range Safety Officers. The main course offered in 2020 was the Cover Your Basics – Handgun. This course was offered eight times from August to December. There were 113 students who attended those courses. Many of the students were first-time firearms owners. The common feedback from the students was after completion of this course, they realized an increase comfort in safely handling and shooting a handgun. Building on the success of the Basic Handgun class, the training division expanded its course offering to include The Oklahoma Self Defense Act (SDA) license training, and an expanded basic handgun class, home defense carbine and home defense shotgun.

In addition, several club divisions expressed a need for NRA certified Range Safety Officers (RSO). Both sanctioned events and individuals using the different club ranges, the material offered in this course provides the students with fundamental range safety knowledge. During the discussion at the board meeting, the need to have more certified Range Safety Officers and to provide the opportunity for members to obtain the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to conduct events safely.The club board approved a budget to provide this training to club members tuition free. This course is offered twice a year and is filled within hours of announcement.

In 2021, the training division had an annual total of 180 students, which included 40 new NRA RSOs. The Training Division continued theses courses into 2022 and 2023. Over these three years, 298 students have taken part in the Basic Handgun class, 104 students in the SDA class, certified 120 NRA RSOs, with a total of 587 students in all the course offerings. (note: these numbers do not include the Ladies Pistol League, or courses offered by other instructors)

In 2022, Jodi Ovelman moved out of state and Kemit invited Jamie Meyer to take her place as a Co-Chair. From there a ladies group was formed and named the Ladies Pistol League. It is in its second year with growth in its participation and courses offered. Some of the courses offered include holster classes, regular beginner and intermediate pistol practices, and meet-ups that introduced other shooting disciplines. Their training also included specific instruction to participate in the GSSF match held at the Oklahoma City Gun Club in 2022 and 2023 resulting in the highest female participation in GSSF history.

What started with an observation by the OKC Gun Club board to address the needs for the community of new firearms owners continues to serve the community with programs to provide shooting fundamentals and safety practices. Currently, the Training Division offers many more training opportunities to both its members and the community. Courses in personal protection inside and outside of the home, gunshot first aid, and holster classes, are several examples. In addition to the NRA Certified Instructors, the training division has two NRA Certified Training Counselors who offer NRA instructor level courses.

*Walsh, Joe. (2022, April 14). U.S. Bought Almost 20 Million Guns Last Year – Second-Highest Year On Record. Forbes.—second-highest-year-on-record/?sh=595e0e113bbb

About Kemit Grafton

Kemit is an NRA Certified Instructor for pistol, rifle, shotgun, CCW, muzzleloader, and metallic reloading. He is also an NRA Chief Range Safety Officer and Rangemaster Certified Master Pistol Instructor. In addition, he is certified by the Oklahoma Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) as an SDA instructor. He is a semi-retired college professor, having taught full-time at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City. Kemit also taught at the University of Phoenix in Oklahoma City. He currently teaches part-time at Southern Nazarene University in the Master of Business Administration program. He has over 20 years’ experience with teaching in higher education and has a Doctor of Business Administration degree. Prior to his teaching career, he held diverse management and leadership positions with the U.S. Air Force as a mid- and senior-level manager. In his last duty assignment, he was the Chief of Education and Training for the Security Police (now Security Forces) career field. Retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel, he spent 22 years with the U. S. Air Force as a Security Police officer. In total, he has 26 years of law enforcement experience. Kemit is also an ORA member and Oklahoma City Gun Club member, where he is on the board of directors and Chair of the Training Division. His wife, Jeanette, and him have lived in Oklahoma for 22 years and their home is in Edmond, OK.