Gun safety is about more than handling a weapon, according to a Bay City-based firearms instructor

When he’s not working his day job as a Physical Therapy Assistant for the Bay-Arenac ISD, helping kids with special needs, Dave Coppler spends weekends teaching people about safe gun handling.

Coppler is a USCCA (United States Concealed Carry Association) Certified Firearms Instructor, who started Defensive Concepts Michigan in July. He works with people of all ages to make sure everyone who handles a weapon has the education to do so with confidence.

There are a lot of misconceptions about firearms handling that Coppler works to correct in his weekend classes. His certification course features five hours of classroom instruction that includes a full hour with a Michigan attorney talking about gun law.

“You don’t need to shoot someone just because someone wants to take your purse,” says Coppler, who emphasizes responsibility along with safety.

After the classroom instruction there are three more hours of range instruction.

“I’ve had people take my class and then not go get a CPL (Concealed Pistol License) because they realize there are serious legal ramifications,” he says, but regardless of whether or not they take their certificate to the County Clerk, people are getting educated and that’s important to Coppler.

Over his years in the shooting community, whether in competitions, or spending time at gun ranges, Coppler says he met a lot of people who encouraged him to become an instructor.

“They’d say stuff like ‘You’re so good with all these women and kids out here.’ Then the opportunity came up because the USCCA wanted to expand their footprint and were looking for instructors.”

Coppler says the USCCA is a company with similar ideals to the National Rifle Association, but without the political ties.

Teaching firearms safety classes was an easy transition for Coppler, who adds it’s not all about carrying a concealed weapon. Since he was a teen, Coppler says he’s been around guns, shooting competitively, doing gunsmithing and customization work. He says a lot of people take his class to get a heightened level of awareness and security, but he also encourages participation in recreational shooting sports to build confidence.

“If you get kids involved there are so many shooting sports,” he says, including organizations like the International Defense Pistol Association (IDPA), where shooting practice involves self-defense scenarios, or the U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) with competitions set up around a variety of different situations. Coppler says there are also 3-gun, 2-gun, steel and bullseye challenges, for anyone interested in recreational shooting.

“There are so many things you can do that’s just shooting paper or steel that’s not practicing for military defense,” he says, adding, “it’s just marksmanship, and is no different than archery, slingshot, or a BB gun. It’s just that you’re using a more explosive projectile.”

All of the education and exposure adds up to Coppler’s goal of building “a level of confidence before you even consider anything like concealed carry, where you’d have a gun on you.”

Whether it’s recreational or for safety concerns, Coppler says nothing replaces good instruction and knowing the rules for handling a firearm.

“There are four fundamental rules for anyone handling a firearm,” he says. Those rules are:
  1. Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded.
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
  3. Know your target and what’s beyond that target.
  4. Don’t point your gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.
Coppler offers classes to groups of up to 12 at a time, and his schedule is available on his Facebook page. He holds classes during the winter months at Linwood Bay Sportsman’s Club on Linwood Road.

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