Apparently efforts to encourage and support youth hunting and shooting sports—including the safety, education and training programs offered by the National Rifle Association (NRA)—are having a noticeable impact. So much so, in fact, that one anti-gun group decided it was time to attack the NRA and others for their work to bring young people into the fold.
That’s a key take-away from a February 2016 “report” by the anti-Second Amendment Violence Policy Center (VPC). In its 54 pages, “Start Them Young”—How the Firearms Industry and Gun Lobby Are Targeting Your Children, claims that hunting organizations and the firearm industry are involved in a nefarious plot to target children to become (gasp!) hunters and recreational shooters. Why? Because gun manufacturers are making firearms specifically for younger, smaller-statured shooters and hunters, while the aforementioned organizations dare to offer educational opportunities for kids to learn about firearm safety and hunting.
The VPC report goes so far as to compare these efforts to a tobacco company actively marketing cigarettes to children. According to the VPC, the gun companies and pro-hunting organizations seek to recruit young people to the shooting sports “with no regard for the lethal consequences that we see over and over again when children have access to guns: suicides, homicides, fatal unintentional shootings and even mass murder.”
While America’s firearms manufacturers are frequent targets of VPC’s condemnation, hunting, youth hunting programs, the NRA and NRA Family are all attacked, too.
As soon as the VPC report was announced, the New York Times posted an editorial on it, parroting all the major points the VPC made—regardless of how ludicrous.
What the VPC and the New York Times conveniently left out was the fact that youth shooting and hunting programs teach our young people responsibility, discipline and the importance of our Second Amendment heritage. Exposure and understanding of the shooting sports while people are young also can provide a lifetime of safe and exciting recreation.
Consider, for example, the NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe program. Eddie Eagle has educated more than 27 million children about gun safety in more than 26,000 schools, law enforcement agencies and civic groups nationwide since 1988. The program shares a simple message of what children should do should they come upon a firearm: “Stop! Don’t Touch! Run Away! And, Tell a Grown-up!”
Take NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC). Recognized as the most comprehensive youth hunting program in North America, YHEC is the “graduate studies" program in outdoor skills and safety training for young hunters. Open only to those who have completed hunter-safety training at the state or provincial level, the program is conducted under simulated hunting conditions to provide the best practical environment for reinforcing and testing a young hunter's skills. State- and provincial-level YHEC programs, hosted by volunteer instructors, draw an estimated 10,000 youths each year. Since its inception in 1985, YHEC has reached more than a million young hunters and continues to be a fun and exciting way to attract young people into the hunting fold—and encourage them to stay here.
Sorry, VPC, but you got it wrong. Completely wrong.