By Jason Shoot
In the aftermath of the Columbine disaster in Colorado and other violent outbreaks by teenagers in schools, the idea of children with guns in their hands doesn't appeal to many people.
But while some parents are concerned danger lurks around every corner and kids with handguns exist in every school, it is comforting to know there are children with guns who aren't interested in troublemaking.
Cassie Horning is one of these kids.
Horning, a 14-year-old freshman at Havre High School, is a member of the Havre Girls Junior Rifle Club and recently earned a distinguished expert award for marksmanship, an honor few shooters can boast about.
"Guys at school brag about themselves all the time, so it's nice to know I'm better than most of them," Horning said.
"I tell them to come down and try to beat me, but none of them will. I can do it better than them."
And the it' is firing at targets with exceptional skill and accuracy.
Horning, who has been a member of the rifle club for four years, uses a .22-caliber rifle for her target shooting. For purposes of moving up the totem pole as far as marksmanship honors are concerned, she is required to meet certain scores from four different positions prone, offhand, sitting and kneeling.
So do any of these positions give this distinguished expert any problems?
"Oh yeah, offhand," Horning said. "Definitely that one."
Offhand involves standing and holding the rifle up without the benefit of resting the gun on a steady object.
Because of Horning's shooting prowess, the National Rifle Association will soon present Horning with an award.
Distinguished expert is the highest level the NRA will recognize; however, the local rifle club takes it one step further with a master distinguished level.
"It's just something we do to keep the girls involved in the club," rifle club instructor Cal Burr said.
Horning will give the master distinguished level a shot, but she admits it's going to take some time to get there.
"The kid who just got the record (Garrett Hanson) took four or five years (after reaching the distinguished expert level) to get there. Me? Maybe longer."
In fact, Hanson needed eight years to complete the run from rookie to master distinguished expert.
Horning said she would also like to try pistol shooting, which involves firing at targets while riding horseback.
"It would be combining two of my favorite things," Horning said.
Horning's brother, Justin, also earned a distinguished expert award last year.
"They're pretty competitive, and they like to hunt together," Sandy Horning, Cassie's mother, said.
Fred Horning, Cassie's father, recently took the kids out for some goose hunting, and they had little trouble bringing home multiple trophies.
"I took them out and we got 11 honkers the first morning," Fred said. "Cassie's already got three deer. It's all pretty neat."
Horning, despite her gun-toting heroics, is really a very down-to-earth girl.
"I like to do all the normal things go to the mall, hang out with friends," Horning said.
So will this recent award do anything to change Horning?
"I'm not (as excited about the accomplishment) as people might think," Horning said. "It's just doesn't seem like this is the kind of thing I should be be getting really excited about. I just like to do it."
The Havre club as a whole consists of 44 members, including 12 girls and three foreign-exchange students. People interested in joining the club may call Burr at 265-4903.