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Man on A Mission: The Extended Interview (Page 2)

NRA President Ron Schmeits shares more of his thoughts on gun ownership, hunting and the shooting sports—and on why the NRA is so critical to freedom’s future.

What type of shooting do you enjoy most regularly?
I enjoy just being on the range and exercising my freedom. I don’t really have a favorite type of shooting. I tend to take part in a given shooting discipline mainly in preparation for a hunt. If I’m going to hunt big game—even if I’ve used a particular gun numerous times—I will take it to the range for two purposes. One is to make sure it is sighted in, and the other is to make sure I am comfortable with it. Depending on which game animal I will be hunting, I’ll take one or two guns out and shoot them to maintain that comfort level and make sure they shoot where they are supposed to shoot.

When I consider trap, sporting clays and other shotgun games, I think of how they help to prepare an individual for hunting in the field. The more you’re prepared, the more successful you’re going to be on an actual hunt. Though I do some competitive shooting, I don’t do too much of it since I usually just enjoy competing with myself.

You can toss a football or hit a baseball in the backyard with friends, but to get into hunting and shooting, one needs a mentor.  What is your best advice on how to help kids get involved?
Kids need a mentor when it comes to firearms because they’ve got to first learn safety rules. I believe adult gun owners need to take the responsibility to invite kids to the range and even drive them there if needed. Show kids what shooting is all about then offer to take them hunting—maybe on a special youth hunt. In some cases, you’re going to have to lend that young person your gun and provide ammo and gear.

I always feel that kids who grow up in a hunting family are blessed because hunting is a natural opportunity for them. Hunters and shooters need to look around and ask themselves, “How can I provide the same opportunity for other individuals?” Maybe you know a kid who lives in a single-parent family and maybe that parent can’t afford or doesn’t have the time to take that boy or girl to the range. I think this scenario is a challenge we must take upon ourselves to foster a young individual into a sport that lasts a lifetime.

How does Ann share in your role as NRA president and support you in conducting your official duties?
Ann is a vital part of what I do. She is extremely supportive of the freedom we enjoy in the United States. She’s a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and she’s a great communicator. Ann always makes sure I’m properly packed for my trips and that I’m on time. With so much travel, I can get my days and events mixed up, but then I’ll just look to her because I know she’ll have it right. She is a very caring person not only on my behalf but when it comes to everyone she meets.

We have a lot of fun together. Ann does a little bit of hunting and enjoys shooting. When she gets involved in something, she says it’s her responsibility to have a good time. As she shares that enthusiasm with those she meets, they have a good time, too, including me. Sometimes when I go places without her, people drop their smiles and ask, “You didn’t bring Ann with you?” She has developed a great relationship with many of the same people I deal with so they look forward to seeing her at the events I attend. 

Do your children enjoy shooting sports and hunting?
Ann and I have four children, all of whom enjoy some type of shooting. My son lives in Germany right now, which curtails some of his activity, but we have a daughter in Iowa, a son in Kansas and another daughter in Oregon who all do a fair amount of shooting and hunting. I think this is because Ann and I were able to expose and introduce them to safe gun handling and the shooting sports at a young age. We spent time together as a family on the range and in the field. Though they all developed slightly different shooting interests, they still enjoy some facet of the shooting sports.

How did you come to choose a career in banking?
Careers are sometimes created just by the opportunities that present themselves. In my case, I was born and raised on a farm in Nebraska. After college, I had a sister and brother that were still on the farm, so I took a summer job in a nearby bank. I enjoyed what I was doing and never left. One of the things I find most fulfilling in banking is that you get to help so many people fulfill their dream in life. You make the dream a reality for them, whether it’s purchasing their first home or a business, taking a vacation or financing a hunting trip. I enjoy just plain helping people. Maybe that’s what strikes a chord in me as far as the NRA is concerned. Through training and competitions, the NRA helps people to do what they want to do and enjoy most in life. And I feel that’s what banking is for—to help people get the most out of life.

What do your friends and colleagues say about your NRA involvement?  Have you helped any of them get into shooting or hunting or helped their children to get involved in NRA youth programs?

Most people are a bit taken aback that a banker and a person from a ranch in rural Nebraska could get so involved in the NRA. Life is what you make of it. I believe that everybody has a responsibility to leave this life a little better than they found it. We don’t just use it; we need to improve whatever we touch. I want my children and grandchildren to do the same and to enjoy the same freedoms that I have today. We have to figure out ways that we can enhance that opportunity. I think my involvement in the NRA opens the eyes of some people. In any walk of life you can do and become anything you want if you put forward the extra effort. If someone would have told me 20 years ago that I was going to be involved in the NRA as much as I am today, I wouldn’t have believed it. I think you just have to help people get involved. You have to show them, you have to give them that experience. Whether it’s my children or somebody else’s children, showing and training and sharing are equally important.

How many children and grandchildren do you have?
I have four children and six grandchildren. One of our daughters isn’t married and has no children, but our other three each have one boy and one girl. So we have three boys and three girls ranging from 1-1/2 to 22 years old. Four of the six are under 6 years of age, but the other two are in their late teens and early 20s. When they come to Raton, Ann and I take them to go shoot or hunt and enjoy some personal time. They are growing up enjoying the shooting sports as much as we do.

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