Instead of giving a lecture about firearm safety to his high school law and public safety students, one Marana High School teacher made the lesson real by taking his students to the shooting range.

Richard Pines, a Marine turned teacher who's dabbled in acting, often brings his flair for the dramatic to his classroom.

He's set up elaborate crime scenes, with students splattered in blood playing victims. He's taken students to the University of Arizona law library to conduct legal research, and has even asked them to undergo the same fitness tests that police recruits would perform.

When it came time to cover the course's firearm safety requirement, Pines opted to take a more hands-on approach by taking his students to a gun safety class on Wednesday, which included firing .22-caliber Smith & Wesson revolvers at targets depicting gun-wielding thugs.

"It's something they need to get used to if they want to go into the field of criminal justice," he said of his decision to allow the students to handle real guns.

The students spent two hours learning about stance, grip, sight picture, and how to safely load, operate and unload a pistol through demonstrations and videos at the Marksman Pistol Institute on West Prince Road. After their safety training, they stepped into the firing range to put into practice what they had just learned.

Students at Marana High can choose to be part of one of four academies, or smaller learning communities, which include medical, fine arts, business and human services, said Principal Allison Murphy.

"Most of the kids, when they choose their academies, they're exploring the kind of career they want to do," said Murphy who added that the courses offer as much hands-on training as possible.

When Pines presented his plan to take his students to a firearm training class, Murphy said there was no hesitation in approving the trip.

"It's just another relevant opportunity for our kids," she said, emphasizing that all of the students had permission from parents, who were also invited to attend the class.

The class fee was paid for by students and their parents, not the school, Pines said.

The class at Marana is a satellite course of Pima County's Joint Technological Education District, or JTED, program and must meet certain standards, one of which is instruction in safety procedures for handling firearms.

Pines believes his students are the first in the city to take a gun safety course as part of their curriculum.

Andrew LeFevre, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said he has not heard of any similar situation in the state.

At the range, one by one, the 18 high school juniors shot their first eight rounds, coached by the course's instructors. They then shot off about 40 more rounds, filling the room with the sounds of gunfire and the stinging smell of gunpowder.

Some students said they were nervous and one girl's hands trembled for several minutes after her rounds were spent, but most of the students had prior experience shooting a gun.

Braeden Madrid, 17, said he's been shooting with his grandfather since he was a small child. But he said this is the first time he's taken a formal safety course and it was an important learning experience.

"I feel like everybody should take a class like this because you know, eventually at one point in time, you are going to be around guns," he said. "I don't know if it's essential, but it would be really nice to know how to handle a gun, to make sure it's safe, to make sure you know how to use it correctly around other people."

Tracy Burris has been a firearms instructor for 11 years and Wednesday was his first time teaching a high school class. Several years ago he tried to approach schools about offering courses when the state Legislature added an article in the education statutes that allowed gun safety to be taught in schools.

"Because of the fact that a majority of homes have firearms, I think it would be a disservice not to provide firearm training for the young people in those houses," said Tracy. "It can't do anything but make the situation better as far as safety goes."

The law and public safety class at the central JTED campus teaches gun safety through demonstrations and role-playing with plastic, nonfunctioning guns, said Kathy Rau, the program manager for the law and public safety program.

She said going to the shooting range doesn't improve a student's chances of getting a job in law enforcement.

"Most law enforcement firearm instructors want recruits that don't know how to shoot because they don't want those bad habits," Rau said.

Pines' students said they appreciate the hands-on approach their teacher takes, saying his class is one of their favorites.

"It's like reading about how to make a peanut butter sandwich as opposed to making one," Madrid said.

"One is way more delicious," said Kyle Hoeye, finishing his classmate's thought.

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"I feel like everybody should take a class like this because you know, eventually at one point in time, you are going to be around guns."

Braeden Madrid, 17, jted student

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at or 573-4224.