Bayside training center to offer firearm safety courses as part of growing roster of certifications 

Photo by Christopher Capo

In 2016, the Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corp underwent a significant transformation. Originally a first responder unit, it evolved into a unique training facility now known as BVAC Rescue Response Training Center.

This center provides a comprehensive array of safety courses, all under one roof. Now, in response to growing demand across the state and influenced by a 2022 Supreme Court ruling affirming the constitutional right to carry a pistol in public under the Second Amendment, the center is expanding its offerings to include firearm safety courses.

In response to the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen decision, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that individuals must undergo a new firearm training course as part of the state’s new minimum standards. Prior to the ruling, New York was one of seven states that required residents to show a need to carry a gun when applying for a concealed carry permit. 

Around the time the governor unveiled the new concealed carry laws in response to the Supreme Court decision she referred to as “reckless,” the President of BVAC, Christopher Capo, began considering implementing the new training course. 

Since Capo took over and spearheaded the transition to a training center, he added an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) course and an EPA Certification. But out of the 20 courses offered, the Basic Life Support CPR course, required for a range of professions, remains the most popular at the site. 

More recently, BVAC introduced a “Stop the Bleed” course, which is designed to equip individuals to deal with gunshot and stab wounds. But Capa knew that firearm safety training is a different ballpark than the new classes he added to the roster over the years. 

“I wondered how the community would take it,” said Capo, a lifelong Bayside resident. “But I found that we had a good response and people liked it. I didn’t get any negative feedback.” 

He tested the waters by sharing the new course across community Facebook groups like he usually does. For the first course, he offered it out of BVAC’s partner facility, Medicine in Bad Places, in Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island, to test the waters before bringing it to Bayside. Four people completed the course earlier this month. 

“Since we teach about how to save lives, this is teaching people how to prevent the loss of life,” said Capo. “Incorporating this, I thought, was the next step.”

The NYS Concealed Carry Firearm Safety Course is a comprehensive 18-hour training course spread over two days. It covers basic procedures, such as cleaning and traveling with firearms, as well as an owner’s mental state. 

The state’s requirement is 16 hours, but since two hours are designated for the range, BVAC wanted to make up the two hours lost in the classroom by surpassing the state’s standards. 

He noted that this course is not intended to teach you how to shoot, despite the range component, which will not take place in Bayside. In the classroom, the certified instructors utilize replica firearms and non-lethal rounds of ammunition during the training. 

BVAC instructors are certified by the NRA, and many of them are retired police officers, EMS or military veterans with an average of 20 years of experience. Capo added that most of them are former “range masters” who “know the ups and downs of handling firearms” from experience. 

“If I wanted to tomorrow go take an NRA course, to be an instructor, I could do that. But I wouldn’t hire myself,” noted Capo. “Because you just don’t have the experience behind it. And that’s the most important part.”

Since the state’s new law went into effect in September 2022, classes across Long Island and upstate New York where gun ownership is more popular have been filling up. But in Queens and other parts of the city, Capo says he has not seen offerings on the same level. 

“This is a safety course that I feel is needed in the area, and it looks like it is needed, from what I can see outside of our area,” he said, adding, “I believe people should be trained in all different types of safety. This is our goal.”

Capo says he may offer other courses, such as shotgun safety courses and others geared more towards the military and police, down the road. 

The courses will be available in Bayside at the end of May and throughout the summer. He is hoping that in the long run, permit holders will show up for renewals every three years, as now required by law. 

“It’s a huge responsibility to own a firearm,” said Capo. “But if you can train people to understand safety procedures, hopefully it will save lives. Hopefully, there won’t be an incident where a child finds a handgun and shoots the sibling.”