Shooting sports gaining in popularity with young people

Thanks to Jeff Soyer, I came across this heartwarming article from, of all places, the Boston Globe that talks about how the shooting sports are increasing in popularity among young people:

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.

Articles like this are incredibly satisfying to read, reach a large audience who may be fence-sitters or somewhat anti-gun, and help show such people one of the many positive aspects of firearms. People in cities like Boston might not otherwise see firearms in a positive light and may have a mental image of gun owners as overweight country bumpkins or inner-city violent thugs, so having a major newspaper cover youth shooting sports in a positive light is a big thing.

Truly, the future of not only the shooting sports, but of our rights and liberties, rests in the hands of young people and it’s good to see young people getting involved in the outdoors, shooting sports, hunting, etc.

While I don’t understand why they would bother contacting such an irrelevant “group”, the Globe contacted Josh Sugarmann at the VPC and he made a statement that shows how extreme and out-of-touch the anti-gun side is:

“The fact is, children don’t have the developmental skills to hold highly developed military weapons,” says Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center in Washington.

I have no idea what “highly developed military weapons” are, but whatever they are and regardless of where Mr. Sugarmann gets his “facts”, the article clearly shows that there are children who have the developmental skills to not only hold and use such firearms, but additionally have the discipline and proficiency such that they compete and excel in high-level competitions.

Hunting with suppressors to be allowed in Louisiana

From guns.com comes this report that, effective August 1st, 2014, it will be legal to hunt game in Louisiana with suppressors, thus adding Louisiana to the list of 33 states where hunting with suppressors is legal.

Hunters in the Sportsman’s Paradise will be able to use legally-owned suppressors to both harvest game and control pests following Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of House Bill 186 into law Friday.

HB186 strikes the state’s ban on using National Firearms Act-registered suppressors, commonly but incorrectly referred to as “silencers,” in hunting, and replaces it with language to allow widespread use by lawful sportsmen.

The popular bill had sailed through the state Legislature, passing the Senate unanimously on May 20 with little comment by lawmakers.

“This is about mitigating the noise and preventing hearing loss,” said Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), sponsor of the legislation.

The law will allow any person who possesses an NFA-compliant and properly registered firearm suppressor to use the device to both harvest game animals as well as pests and nuisance wildlife such as beaver and nutria. However, in an apparent bid to void use by those with a history of poaching, it forbids the use of suppressed firearms by those who have been convicted of certain wildlife violations in the past five years.

As a suppressor owner and advocate, this is excellent news. I had no idea that so many states allowed hunting with suppressors.

I really should join the American Suppressor Association, as they and the NRA were instrumental in getting this bill passed.

Of course, not everyone was happy:

Only a handful of Louisiana House representatives voted against the suppressor bill when it passed through that chamber in an 82-15 vote in April. Those who did oppose it voiced concerns about the use of suppressors by criminals as well as the broad allowances to use the devices for virtually all game in the state.

“I don’t know why we need silencers to hunt birds,” said Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans). “We don’t need this bill.”

For some reason, Americans are seemingly unique in the widespread belief that suppressors are tools of assassins, hit men, secret agents, and other stealthy types. In many countries, including those that are decidedly anti-gun like the UK, the use of suppressors is considered one of being polite and neighborly: just as it’s rude and disturbing to drive a car without a muffler, shooting unsuppressed firearms can be impolite in some circumstances.

Rep. Badon is off the mark: all shooters should be able to use suppressors if they wish, and their use should be encouraged. Not only does it help reduce hearing damage for the shooter, but it minimizes the irritation of those who may be disturbed by the sound of unsuppressed shooting. Win-win for everyone.

Why we win

As Uncle says, “No one grins like that at an anti-gun event“.

He’s right. The antis focus entirely around the negative: crime, violence, etc. There’s basically nothing positive for them except maybe laughing at fools on our side as they put their feet in their mouths.

On the other hand, the pro-gun folks have a bunch of fun shooting at the range (there’s not really an “anti-gun range”), engaging in competition, training, hunting outdoors, checking out stuff in catalogs or at the shop, asking questions and having discussions on forums, blogs, and other media, etc. We have multiple magazines and other publications dedicated to the shooting sports and related outdoor activities, all of which are funded by people who are interested in those topics and who contribute their own funds.

The antis? They’ve got the likes of the Brady Campaign, Shannon Watts, and Michael Bloomberg. There’s only a few funding sources, typically from the Joyce Foundation and Bloomberg, with very little actual grassroots support. It really must be quite depressing.

ShotSpotter in DC

David Hardy found an interesting article by the Washington Post, who reports on the use of strategically-located “ShotSpotter” devices which can automatically detect and localize gunshots being fired within an area (Washington DC, in this case). These devices have been installed in roughly one-third of the District.

From the Post,

About 39,000 separate incidents of gunfire [over the last 8 years -AZR] have been documented by ShotSpotter’s unseen web of at least 300 acoustic sensors across 20 square miles of the city, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The data, obtained through a public-records request, offer an unprecedented view of gun crime in a city where shooting a firearm is illegal in virtually all circumstances.

The gunfire logged by ShotSpotter overshadows the number of officially reported felony gun crimes by more than 2 to 1. More than one-half of the incidents detected by the network have involved multiple rounds of gunfire. In 2009 alone, ShotSpotter captured more than 9,000 incidents of gunfire.

That sounds really interesting, and they probably get a lot of cool data from it. If it works as advertised (that is, it only listens for gunshots and isn’t snooping on conversations and whatnot), ShotSpotter seems like a powerful tool for crime detection and public safety.

In the comments section of the article, user Wiggan has an interesting proposal:

Now the follow up piece should develop a similar map for registered gun owners, as the District requires them to be fingerprinted and registered at their local police stations.

The plot I would like to see would be an overlay between registered gun owners and shooting density. 2nd amendment advocates say carry permits reduce crime. Gun control advocates say gun ownership contributes to crime. Here we could have an objective test to see who is right.

I for one would be highly interested in seeing such a map. While it might not be completely conclusive, it’d certainly provide fascinating insight.

Another commenter inquires if the ShotSpotter sensors are connected to surveilance cameras operated by the police. While CCTV can provide useful information in regards to crime (particularly if they are able to focus in on an area where shots were just fired, or are placed strategically based on ShotSpotter data), I have some reservations in regards to privacy rights. Still, with proper privacy protections in place, such a system could be a valuable crime-fighting system.

The Capacity Question

Tim over at Gun Nuts Media has a great piece on why capacity matters.

Read the whole thing. It has gems like:

We do not know what it will take to actually stop a violent attacker. People often make the mistake of believing that somehow a gunfight or a shooting is going to happen on their terms. Think logically about that for a second: We’re talking about a situation which has spun so far out of control that your last option to resolve it without ending up in a wheelchair or a body bag is to aim a firearm at another human being and shoot them.

and

We’ve discussed expressing capacity as time, but here it’s important that we also see capacity as opportunity. More opportunity to make a tough shot against a hostile moving and using cover. More opportunity to get a fight-stopping round on target, ending the bad guy’s hostile actions. More opportunity to win. When the bullets are going both ways, more opportunities to fire at the threat is always superior to fewer ones.

(Emphasis in original, but in italics. Changed here to bold for clarity since WordPress’ “blockquote” feature italicize all the quoted text.)

I’m famous!

Ok, no, not really famous…but one of my old photos has been making the rounds on Facebook.

To answer the inevitable questions:

  1. Yes, her reloading technique needed work. It was the first time she’d fired an AR. She’s improved in the intervening years.
  2. No, I’m not taking cover behind the side door/window. I’m bracing my arm against the A pillar, so I’m right where the windshield meets the hood. Should I be further forwards, and thus more protected by the engine? Probably, but I’m being a gentleman and yielding the best cover to the lady.
  3. Yes, I should probably be less exposed.
  4. The picture was intended to humorously illustrate Tamara‘s quote, “A true gentleman provides covering fire while a lady is reloading.” (I forgot the exact wording when I captioned the photo. My apologies to Tam.), not to be a serious demonstration of shooting skills.
  5. The point was not that she’s reloading the rifle for my use and that she remains under cover during the gunfight — I’m providing covering fire for her while she reloads her own rifle, after which she’ll engage the enemy.
  6. No, she’s not pointing the AR at my head. She’s about half a meter to my right and the rifle is pointing up and downrange.
  7. Yes, a full-size AR-15 is a bit too big for her. Since the photo was taken, we’ve purchased an “M4gery”-style AR with an adjustable stock and a shorter barrel for better balance.
  8. Yes, I’m left-handed. She’s not (hence why the reloading looks so awkward).
  9. I’m shooting an XD-45.
  10. That was one of our first dates, and we were out shooting in the Arizona desert with friends. I may be able to dig up the coordinates of where we were if anyone is interested.
  11. I married that woman, and am the luckiest guy in the world.
  12. Is a Camry ideal cover? No, but the big chunk of American1 steel aluminum under the hood is certainly better than nothing.
  13. Why is the Camry in the desert? What, you expect we’d walk way out there? The Camry can handle the road and suited my everyday driving purposes.
  1. The 2006 Toyota Camry was made in the US from more US-made parts than most of the vehicles made by “American” brands. []

Shooty Goodness

I finally got some rangetime this weekend, after a hiatus of several months.

If I wasn’t moving soon, I’d be seriously considering getting reactive/moving targets. Punching holes in paper is getting a bit boring.

Ben Avery

Last weekend I went to the Ben Avery range, which is located a bit north of Phoenix.

For the price of $7, I was afforded access to one of the crown jewels of shooting ranges. The main rifle range has 67 firing positions, and allows any firearms (including full-auto, which several people were shooting that day) with caliber restrictions on the .416 Barrett, .50 BMG, tracers (fire risk), and AP. The main range has target positions from 5 yards to 200 yards, with other ranges including excellent shotgun facilities and a 1000 yard range, not to mention archery facilities.

Each firing position has a sturdy, stable concrete table and steel-and-wood seats that are well-maintained, sturdy, and comfortable. There’s a screen between each position that prevents shooters from being struck with brass from the neighboring positions. Every aspect of the main public range was well-maintained, in good repair, and modern.

There’s a substantial number of attentive, well-trained safety officers that routinely walk the line, check that guns are cleared during cease-fires, and answer questions. I was extremely impressed by the safety officer’s professionalism; in my experience it’s not uncommon for RSOs to be somewhat curmudgeonly, old-fashioned (“Why do you need an ‘assault rifle’?”), and the like, but the Ben Avery staff was excellent. Even the cashier (they take Visa and MasterCard, in addition to cash) was polite, cheery, and professional. There’s a hot dog and drink vendor in the parking lot, right near the grassy field and playground for children.

While I was there, I was also impressed by the extreme diversity of people there. The staff was a mix of men and women of all types, both old and young, and the shooters included a mix of just about every conceivable group: men and women of every skin color, age group, size, shape, and experience level were there. There were women in their 20s who were training with expensive match rifles, a grandfather teaching his grandson to shoot a .22 rifle, a middle-aged black couple shooting what looked like a matched pair of revolvers, a couple who looked to be in their early 30s shooting a suppressed .308 rifle, and some folks shooting full-auto at the extreme end of the range. I overheard several languages being spoken. In the parking lot, vehicles ranged from pickups to Priuses. Open carry was common, but by no means ubiquitous. Truly, a cross-section of humanity, all coming together for a fun, safe afternoon at the range.

I’ve written about a few ranges in the past, many of which were well-equipped and praiseworthy, but I’ve never been as impressed with a range than I was with Ben Avery. The Arizona Department of Game and Fish runs a fine range, and I’m glad such a place is not terribly far from where I live. Like the Swiss, Arizonans take shooting seriously.

One of the best experiences of the day was being (politely and cheerily) told to “please take a number and we’ll call you when a lane opens up” — even with the economy not doing so hot, there’s evidently enough people interested in shooting that they’ll take the time and resources to head out to the range that there’s a waiting list to get in, even with 67 public firing positions. Truly, this is why we win.

In addition to being so massively impressed with the range, I also got some shooting done. I re-zeroed one of my ARs for a new ammo and was shooting some targets at 25 and 100 yards. While the rifle is as accurate as ever, I’m woefully out of practice and my groups were embarrassingly large, especially considering I was shooting from a bench. I really should go to an Appleseed shoot at some time.

Anyone in the Phoenix area want to go shooting on a semi-regular basis?

Private