Friday, February 15, 2013

Shooters Tired of Wearing the Scarlet "G"

If you mention you are an NRA member, do people in the conversation edge away? Do they scrutinize your clothing to try and spot where you are concealing your gun? Do they check the exit signs in the room or count the number of drink rings are on the bar next to your beer bottle? Have you become the neighborhood gun whacko? Nobody shuffles their kids across the street from the house where the "golf player" lives or sneaks a peak between the curtains as the "tennis player" loads rackets into the trunk of his car. Firearms owners who enjoy the sport are tired of wearing the "Scarlet G" for "Gun Nut."  Our sports of hunting and various target competitions go back to the first colonist who strolled off the boat and impressed the neighborhood greeters by knocking down a pheasant with his thunder stick. We have a long history rich with marksmanship traditions that span age and gender.

Our problem is a bowling ball, golf club or tennis racket will never effectively stop an enemy bayonet charge. Firearms have come down through the centuries along two paths: sports and weapons. Often the line separating those functions is blurred. Once the industrial revolution gave us mass production, manufacturers discovered military contracts for lots and lots of cheaply produced weapons offered more revenue than the fine instruments required by hunters and competition shooters. The manufacturers purchased the aid of the NRA, who wrap themselves in evangelical patriotism, with pages of advertising and sponsorships of gun shows and donations to foundations. Today, weapons drive the firearms market and fuel the anti-government frenzy to "protect" our Second Amendment rights. The NRA has assumed a messianic role as defender of the Constitution even as they act as procurers, pimping the weapons makers and intimidating legislators.

Sports shooters have been embarrassed and shunted aside by this partnership. We are seen as knuckle-dragging homunculus's, mouth breathing memorized patriotic mantras into battery megaphones, shouting down reason, common sense and compromise as mindless ideologues. Instead of joining the NRA hierarchy hopping from one foot to the other mouthing delusional epithets that only encourage  the equally goofy opposition who believe all 300,000,000 firearms can be taken away from Americans, firearms owners should be directing their considerable energy toward promoting positive images of the sport and inviting more Americans to participate.

Competitions such as three-gun matches are exciting and spectator friendly -- if the venue is expanded. Shooting can be made part of other sports such as cross-country running  or -- like the Winter Olympics -- skiing. Moving targets, targets that explode when hit, or cause some other visual excitement give spectators something and someone to root for. Today, a lot of kids are receiving instructions on safe handling and shooting firearms in competition, learning the rigor of practice and perfecting skill sets that will serve them later in life. Many of these programs have been created by the NRA, continuing their excellent stewardship of the sport -- work which has been so badly overshadowed by the organization's naked grab for political power.

A positive image example would be NASCAR. How many young men died on rural back roads in the South running bootleg moonshine in fast cars past and through police roadblocks in the dead of night, ending up as fireballs fueled by alcohol and gasoline? They found empty meadows, bladed an oval track in the red dirt and raced their souped up moonshine specials for entry money cash in a cigar box. People showed up to watch and those young men built rough grandstands and charged fifty cents for a seat. Today, how many engineering careers have sprouted from NASCAR ambitions in a sport that has the largest spectator draw in the country?

American sports shooters need that kind support, not fake histrionics, patriotic bullying, or paranoid "preppers" getting media attention as they squat in their bunkers waiting for a country they've given up on to fall apart in a frenzy of movie special effects tyranny. American sports shooters have worn the "Scarlet G" long enough. 

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