Sure I might be exaggerating slightly, but not by much. Many parents report that the determination and focus that youth develop at the range translates to better grades in the classroom, where determination and focus is also key. It’s also hard to argue the fact that a smiling teen proud and confident because of his or her accomplishments is going to be much more attractive than a moping, emo smartphone zombie accomplishing nothing.
At a time when America’s debate about gun control is at a fever pitch, young people are learning to use firearms in ever greater numbers.
Participation in the nationwide 4-H Shooting Sports Program, which includes archery, hunting, pistol, rifle, and other firearms, has nearly tripled since 2009 and last year drew 336,558 program participants nationally. The actual number of youths involved is doubtless somewhat different than that, as some sign up for more than one offering and not all states report, but the trend is clear.
Also, after a long decline, participation in hunting in the US increased by 9 percent between 2006 and 2011, and one of the main reasons appears to be an array of youth recruitment and retention programs sponsored by local clubs and national youth organizations, according to a recent study funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Throughout the region, junior shooting programs with names such as “The Projectiles” and “The Hot Shots” are generally open to children age 10 and up. The ranges are packed with boys and, increasingly, girls.
Shooting appeals to young people for unexpected reasons; the sport is unlike the standard competitive fare offered at most of their schools, they say, and measures their individual skill in ways that team play does not.
Many parents of young shooters like it, too. Not only do the demands of target practice improve their children’s focus, they say, but the programs demand a high level of personal responsibility. There are no-exceptions safety rules on the range. And youths are routinely asked at some clubs to bring in their report cards — good grades can be a condition of participation.
As you may expect, gun control supporters are frantic because of the explosion of popularity of shooting sports, as it could mean the end of their already dying movement, which is primarily supported by elderly urban liberal women.
Parents and children who are educated in how firearms function, and who learn to use them responsibly and safely, cannot be scared by the propaganda spouted by any of the gun control groups. Even more terrifying for the Shannon Watts’s and Josh Sugarmann’s of the world, if a young family member starts participating in the shooting sports and does well, they often convert entire families through education into understanding that guns are merely tools, not evil talismans.
We’ve read several accounts recently where parents of young shooting sports athletes were mildly anti-gun and apprehensive about their children beginning the sport… until they saw what shooting sports did for them in terms of character development. Some of these parents have gone from being mildly anti-gun to mildly pro-gun—which is still a win for us—but many have become full-on evangelists, telling other parents in their circle of anti-gun friends and family about how much shooting has done for their children.
That is huge for us, as word-of-mouth advertising sells.
Shooting is the fastest growing high school sport because if offers nothing but positives.
No wonder gun control groups are running scared.