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Yorkville gun rights advocate favors Obama’s tougher gun measures

Rick Winninger owner Firearms Safety Academy Yorkville shooting range.| Paul E. Burd~For Sun-Times Media

Rick Winninger, owner of the Firearms Safety Academy in Yorkville, on the shooting range.| Paul E. Burd~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 12, 2013 6:05AM

YORKVILLE — Local businessman and avowed gun rights advocate Rick Winninger says he hates rules more than anyone else.

But when it comes to gun legislation and some of the new provisions being proposed, Winninger may surprise some people who know him well.

“Sometimes you’ve got to have the rules,” he says.

The owner of two Yorkville businesses — Action Graphix and the Firearms Safety Academy at 1121 Deer St. — Winninger is no newcomer to gun issues. Winninger is a retired police officer who served 30 years in Oakbrook Terrace, Villa Park and Oak Ridge, and six years in the Marine Corps.

Winninger, 68, says he had his first gun put into his hand at age 10. He is a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association and has numerous certificates attesting to his expertise with a weapon, including Distinguished Expert Winchester/NRA, and NRA Certified Pistol and Rifle Instructor.

“I totally agree with stricter background checks,” says Winninger. “In December I went to the Kane County gun show, and there was a guy in the hallway, selling a rifle. And a lot of people buy guns online. The dealers at the gun shows have to do background checks. Why shouldn’t everyone who sells a gun have to do a background check?”

He also favors President Obama’s proposal to have doctors share information on a database about people who are mentally ill. And he thinks people who buy a gun should have to have training before they are issued a permit.

He admits that a stipulation in the law requiring some training would aid him in his gun safety business, which he started two years ago as a hobby. But he also says that when the government requires drivers, real estate and insurance agents to take tests before issuing them licenses, it only makes sense that people who buy a gun should know how to use it safely before they are issued a permit.

“There has to be mandatory training,” says Winninger. “You can’t just say ‘here’s your permit.’ There should be some range of familiarization. There has to be restrictions, training and rules.”

Though he favors some changes to current law, he does not back limiting the types of weapons people can buy.

“Prohibition’s not going to work,” Winninger says. “All it is is a feel-good law for politicians. Do we need 30-round magazines? No. But prohibiting them isn’t going to stop evil people from doing evil things... The idiots of the world are still going to violate the law.”

And he has a few harsh words to say about Illinois Democrats.

“These Democrats – They don’t want conceal/carry. They want to control every other aspect of our lives,” he says. “They have this mindset that guns are evil. They’re not.”

Cindy Heckelsberg, a Millbrook resident and Yorkville real estate agent, recently took a gun safety refresher course from Winninger. She says she can agree with his position on gun education.

“It sure couldn’t hurt to take a class,” she says. “If they are going to do background checks on people, and then they don’t know how to operate their gun, it doesn’t make sense. So I agree. Make them have a class. Make it a requirement.”

Heckelsberg grew up on a farm in Terre Haute, Ind., the oldest child of a father, Clyde Lovellette, who became a sheriff after retiring from playing professional basketball for 13 years with the NBA. She was shooting her father’s guns at targets at a young age, she says.

“The guns have changed so much since I grew up, and I’ve always been a learner, so when Rick asked last summer if I’d like to take a class, I thought, ‘Why not?’ It wouldn’t hurt me to have a refresher course. You never really want to be unprepared.”

Winninger teaches gun safety, the different types of firearms, and the fundamentals of shooting on a range. When someone finishes his class, they get an NRA certificate.

Heckelsberg took her class with her daughter and friends out at a farm. They used bales of hay with paper plates attached to them for targets.

“It was a beautiful fall day. We all wore hearing protection and goggles, and I hit those paper plates many times right in the middle. Rick’s a very good instructor. He’s very diligent. He makes sure you know what’s going on.”

Winninger says that women often make the best students.

“The funny thing is women come in here all apprehensive with their husbands and after taking a class they leave actually shooting better than their husbands,” he says.

Guns, Winninger says, can be used for sports, hobbies and self-defense — but when it comes to self-defense, only as a last resort.

“Learn how to use your gun, store it and handle it safely,” he says. “Then, if someone breaks into your house and you can get out a window, do it. If you can run down an alley, run. Don’t get in a gun fight unless you really have no other way.”

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