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Posted August 12, 2010
Why did we do it?
My love for rifle shooting started in the alley behind my father’s house with a pump air rifle. I worked hard on the cans, crawfish and assorted trash item in the nearby canal when the receding water left a target rich environment in the mud. One thing I can recall about nearly every experience I’ve had with a firearm is that I had fun.
Following the canal was a jogging path. Runners would sporadically pass by as I had my BB gun aimed at the various items in the mud. Not once did someone run away in fear because I was brandishing a firearm. Not a single person confronted me about how inappropriate it was to shoot my air rifle in the middle of town. The police were never called to deal with the irresponsible gun nut firing away in public.
Some might say, “You were just a kid with a BB gun”. Of course I will agree, but at the time I was a young man (teenager) with a gun that looked very much like a standard rifle, deep within city limits. Do you think that if this same thing were to happen today the reaction of passersby will be the same as it was back then? I doubt it.
Walt used to take his center fire hunting rifle to school. It would be held in the school office without a fuss so Walt could go hunting after school. What would happen today if my daughter asked the office at her school to hold onto her shot gun? I wonder how long it would take for my wife to get a phone call from a nervous and agitated office clerk.
The reason people feel the way they do about firearms today is due to one thing. Fear. Fear in this case is born from ignorance. This ignorance comes from a lack of exposure or deliberate misinformation from those who seek to strip us of our freedoms. Only those of us who are active within the shooting sports can push back against the tide of ignorance and fear.
The point I am making is that American society is going in the wrong direction in their opinion of firearms. They are doing so because they fear them. Also, it has been too long since the majority of Americans have needed a firearm to protect themselves from oppression or personal attack. So the memory of a firearms incredible value in serving this purpose has faded. Understand that by saying they are ignorant I am not suggesting that they are stupid but rather inexperienced and misinformed when it comes to firearms.
The great challenge is that no one is born with a positive outlook on firearms. Those who are lucky enough to have family who shoot have the best chance of getting positive exposure without having to seek it out. Everyone else has essentially no chance of getting positive exposure to firearms without someone literally compelling them to do so by inviting them to go to the range. So you can see that as the population ages we are continuously losing ground on the number of gun enthusiasts vs. anti-gun nuts. So it is up to us to make sure that those who are firearms ignorant get a good education.
If you have ever shot with someone who admitted it was there first time using a firearm you’ve seen the same thing happen every time. The new shooter typically approaches the situation timidly. With wide eyes they look everything over hoping to see something that they recognize from the movies. They worry (or “think” for you tougher guys) about how much the recoil will affect them. And then they take the first shot. What happens next is the same thing that happens every time someone shoots for the first time. They smile. They can’t help it. Shooting is fun. You can almost see the fear and ignorance leave their mind while they continue shooting.
Every time this happens you have someone who within one shooting experience has leapt from gun ignorant (or gun nervous at best) to gun enthusiast. They will tell this story about their first shooting experience to others within a few days. Their enthusiasm will be contagious. Those who hear the story will make comments like “I’ve been thinking about getting a fill in the blank pistol/rifle/shotgun and doing some shooting.”
Some of you may be saying, “What on earth does all this have to do with teaming up with Sierra Bullets to support the US Rifle Team with a 50,000 bullet donation?” The connection is that I believe that it is up to all of us within the shooting sports to grow and strengthen the shooting sports so that the gun ignorant can become gun enthusiasts. We need to reverse the trend that firearms are being blamed for the woes of society and therefore must be regulated or even restricted.
When I think about how I can help make this happen I consider ways to make the biggest impact. Sure I can take non-shooters with me to the range for their first experience and I have several times. However, I am in the unique position of being able to affect, connect with and support large groups of firearms enthusiasts. I am also in the unique position of having direct contact with many top decision makers within the firearms industry.
When I considered how these facts can be utilized to benefit the shooting sports I was struck with an idea that I have not been able to shake. I considered what would happen to those in the shooting sports if they saw (for the first time) competing brands standing together to support shooters without concern for only one given brand’s direct gain or benefit.
I strongly believe that the more this happens (not just a one shot deal) the more shooters will enjoy shooting which will lead to more shooting in general. When existing shooters are enjoying shooting and shooting more often there are more opportunities for non-shooters to shoot with them thereby growing and strengthening the shooting sports.
In the end, it is the increased activity of enjoyable shooting experiences by new and existing shooters that will overwhelm and eventually conquer the anti-gun nuts. They will lose those who support them out of ignorance. The anti-gun nuts have always been a small group of liberals but they are very loud. If most of the people around them are new born gun enthusiasts then their anti-gun message falls on deaf ears.
I look forward to the day when my granddaughter can leave her rifle in the school office because her school is holding tryouts for the small bore team. Anyone who thinks that there is no way this will happen should take a moment and ask themselves if they thought they’d see the day when Sierra Bullets and Berger Bullets would join forces to support the US Rifle Team.
United We Stand,
Executive Vice President