Bang! It only takes a second to take a life. Accidental handgun discharge is now the second highest cause of injury or death in the Army, according to Col. Paula Lodi, commander, 44th Medical Brigade.

As a result, Lodi and other Army leaders have implemented voluntary personally-owned weapon workshops for Soldiers and Family members.

During these workshops, attendees learn basic handgun safety and handling. Lodi said two keys that draw service members to the workshops are the ability for them to wear civilian clothes and shoot their privately-owned weapons at the range on a duty day.

Maj. Miranda Killingsworth, 44th Medical Bde. public affairs officer, agreed.

“Who doesn’t want to go out to the range when you can enjoy it and not have to go out in a full kit? I think for us in the brigade, it’s showing an increase in understanding and just knowing the law and what we can and can’t do,” she said.

Service members and spouses from the 16th Military Police and 44th Medical Bde. received instruction from Jay Mang, safety manager, 16th MP, during a workshop, Friday. Attendees learned how to safely load a weapon, basic North Carolina gun laws, different uses for guns and more. Mang emphasized the importance of research before purchasing a gun.

“Don’t buy based off what your buddy has or a movie. Buy the right gun for you.”

According to Mang, many gun shops will allow purchasers to try a gun before they buy it to ensure the right fit. He also said that it takes between 100 to 200 rounds of shooting to determine whether a gun is the right fit.

Soldiers and Family members had the chance to practice this advice during a session at the range that afternoon. Lodi said shooting personally-owned weapons is an important aspect of gun ownership.

“Obviously it’s a perishable skill, so if you don’t fire a lot, you lose some sharpness or you become ... complacent,” she said. “With something like a firearm, you have to respect it and you have to have a good base of knowledge and use it to stay proficient.”

Participants in the workshop included both experienced and newer shooters. Lodi explained that the workshop was beneficial in building confidence for both groups.

Workshop attendee Sgt. Ryan Moeller, 44th Medical Bde. is one of those more seasoned handgun owners. He said he attended the workshop to set a good example for his Soldiers.

“It is not fair to me to preach handgun safety to my Soldiers without making sure that I myself am practicing the same safety measures that I would have them do,” he said. “So, I am just re-solidifying my skills and my safety.”

Lodi said this empathy for Soldiers is an important reason for other leaders to implement personally-owned weapon training.

“We don’t just care about what Soldiers can do for us as part of the mission, but we care about what’s of interest to them, even in their off-duty time.”