Are so-called “Millennials” and their children poised to bring about a renaissance in shooting in America?
Despite a raft of anti-gun legislation pushed in the past year on state and federal levels, both hard data and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that a historical decline in firearms usage is reversing, that many of today’s new shooters are youth, and that gun-friendly young families are taking to the range as never before.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s recent report on the spread of shooting sports involvement from 2009-2012 shows that sport shooting is on the rise, particularly among female, youth, and urban shooters.
In particular, the number of young adults in the child-bearing 18-34 demographic are on the rise, including among young women. Unlike past shooters, which have arisen along the “traditional” paternal lines of cultural involvement in rural areas, the NSSF report indicates that many new shooters are coming to shooting sports later in life. This past-time is being shared with their children, which explains the relatively high family turn-out at Appleseed clinics and other family-friendly shooting events that emphasis shooting safety.
Two stories pulled from today’s headlines on opposite ends of the country show how post-Millenials are even pulling their parents along into shooting sports, in a complete reversal of the tradition of shooting knowledge being passed down to future generations from preceding generations.
In California’s Bay area, Safari Club International’s “Cub” program shooting instructor Buck Buchanan has noticed the change.
“A lot of these kids don’t have mentors so that’s where I come in,” said Buchanan. “Take these young people, untrained shooters, teach them how to shoot and handle firearm safety. The main emphasis is firearm safety.”
Mattusch also helps teach young shooters. “We’ve always have a Cubs program, we feel it’s very important to bring children into the loop about value of conservation, value of shooting, value of safety. They learn a lot and they take it back to their friends, so that their friends become involved in these same ethics.”
But these instructors have noticed something else: one generation that doesn’t seem to know as much about guns.
“When the kids come in, I’d say 20 percent of them never shot a firearm before and their parents have no firearms background,” Buchanan noted.
But the tide seems to have turned, at least if you consider what the U.S. government’s “2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation,” a report that comes out every five years.
While the parents don’t know much about guns, the kids are learning, and many are backing their parents into involvement that they missed as kids.
On the opposite end of the country, Martin Cardenal of Stone Hart’s Gun Club and Indoor Gun Range in Miami, FL, offers free shooting lessons to children 8-17 as long as they’re accompanied by an adult or guardian.
Cardinal notes, “We want parents and children to come in here and learn together, especially if they have never been exposed to this, to take away the negativity or tackle some of those taboos or apprehension they might have.”
All youth programs, whether from the NRA, Safari Club, Appleseed, or independently developed, focus primarily on gun safety over marksmanship. Exposure to firearms through these safety programs open up youth shooters and their families to competition shooting sports and informal target shooting as family pastimes.
This points to a future history where firearms are used more safely by more people than ever before, in a nation where gun ownership is on the rise, and violent crime continues a more than four-decade decline.
Images courtesy of Oleg Volk.