When anyone asks whether retailers are doing all they can to help bring young folks into the shooting world, Pandora blushes.
All answers are probably correct, while most answers probably miss the mark — at least a little. This is because among shooting sports retailers, there are examples of those who do nothing, and those who do tremendous things.
As a group, it is safe to suggest that retailers are doing things to expand the impact of the sport among youth and that, like anything else, there is always room for improvement.
I suggest that there are things retailers can do that will have long-term impact, but that probably wouldn’t naturally occur to most folks. Also, I’ll suggest that there are numbers of things retailers can do without a major investment of time and energy that also will pay off in a quicker, more direct way.
The family structure is the basis for responsible gun ownership, so discussing family participation across the counter can’t be a bad thing. Parents are good. Grandparents are outstanding. Face it: Laws prevent youth from entering into and operating within Gundom by themselves. Hence, the gateway to youth involvement is through parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.
Never before in the history of guns have there been so many models of guns covering such a wide area of interest for young folks than right now. And the kid-friendly list grows by the day. Any focus on kid-friendly guns is a step in the right direction. Oh, yes, the kid-friendly guns also happen to be handy for older shooters and those of physical stature more petite than the average male. We’re talking women here. Females and kids: Hmmm. They kind of go together, don’t they? No matter how one views the subject, it ain’t rocket science.
In addition to the more subtle approaches noted above, there are all kinds of promotions and events that can focus on youth — or any other demographic for that matter.
For example, in Southern California for decades there has been the Hands-On Shooting Sports Fair where company reps and retailers have gathered at Raahauge’s and manned booths where the thousands of attendees could handle and actually shoot all of the latest models. The event has been family-oriented all along, which meant at lot of young folks joining in the fun.
Or, at the same location, local chapters of Safari Club International annually put on what is called Youth Safari Day, on which thousands of young folks and their families participate in all kinds of outdoor shooting sports, including rifle, shotgun, BB gun and archery.
Individual retailers around the country sponsor their own versions of these kinds of events. Although the events require a lot of planning and involve costs, they have shown to be effective ways to introduce kids and families to the shooting sports who otherwise might not even know that they could like shooting. The more urbanized the nation becomes, the more important it is to expand opportunities for folks to be introduced to the shooting sports. There are no substitutes for hands-on shooting experiences.
Actual sales might happen in stores, but the decisions to buy very often happen elsewhere. In just about every community there are organized groups that involve youths with shooting — organizations ranging from Boy Scouts to Salvation Army and a whole lot of others in between. Or, there is the National Rifle Association of America and its many state affiliates. Partnering with any of these sorts of organizations makes total sense. All of these possibilities exist in a setting where the very nature of the gun culture continues to evolve at high velocity despite the drag of anti-gun efforts to snuff out freedom.
As younger folks enter the gun world, their perception of what a gun is, what they want to do with it and even what it should look like is decidedly different than it was even a decade or two ago. They seem to have no trouble reconciling fun and defense as co-equal elements in their vision of “The Gun.” Although many of them do not define themselves in terms of the gun, they apparently have no difficulty defining the gun into what they see themselves to be.
As much as the anti-gun cabal continues to ramp up its volume and vitriol, it doesn’t appear to be getting the traction among the younger folks to the degree that the gun is. The difference seems to be the fear factor. The now older anti-gun crowd desperately clings to its fear, determined to let loose only when their hands are cold and dead; whereas the younger folks, as part of being young, do not preemptively succumb to such things.
As a result, the antis are losing the long game — not because they are so inept and pro-gun forces are so effective, but because youth brings with it fresh, new and different outlooks. That’s the way it is and always has been.
The family is forever. So long as the family is the bedrock of society, then by extension it is safe to suggest that guns and the shooting sports are forever.
So, are retailers doing enough to welcome younger folks into the shooting sports? Probably not. But so long as they don’t get in the way, ultimately the youth themselves likely will save the day.