Fifteen children, just a couple more boys than girls, white and black and Latino and Asian. The rifles were all different colors, too, including pink. The youngest child was five or so; the oldest 14. Likewise the rifles, some brand new, some much-loved heirlooms. Moms and dads at their shoulders, some children fired their first shots ever; others comfortably showed mom and dad a thing or two. From morning to afternoon – with time out for lunch and a raffle and the potty and probably too many sodas – these junior marksmen sent easily more than 1,200 rounds down range.
I cannot say the exercise passed entirely without incident; there was some trouble. Two young sisters had a brief but heated spat over which of them was next entitled to shoot the pink rifle. A stern range officer sorted it out, with a thumbs up from mom, and the day progressed. But even with all those guns firing all those bullets, no one got hurt.** No crime was committed. No one had violence done to them or was for even a moment afraid. (Unless you were a soda can or swinging steel target, in which case you had every reason to fear.) All this even though some of the rifles in use were black and looked “tactical,” even though magazines holding as many as 30 rounds were widely employed.
I’ll tell you what the “gun culture” looked like down at the .22 bay of my IDPA club’s annual picnic. It looked like a lot of children getting along (we can’t be blamed for a sibling squabble). It looked like a bunch of smiling, slightly sunburned kids learning safety and patience and concentration and mastering a skill. It looked like goofy t-shirts, untied sneakers and hair ribbons. The sound was the sound of a lot of self-esteem resulting from actual accomplishment. It sounded like “Dad look at that!” and “Mom I did it!” – sprinkled liberally with “yes, sir” and “no ma’am.”
The numbers for the adults aren't too shabby, either. Last year, more than 1,300 shooters attended 34 pistol, carbine, shotgun or combined arms matches and events put on by my club, and fired well in excess of 100,000 rounds of ammunition while incurring zero injuries. These shooters, of every ethnicity, race and creed, were doctors and drivers; judges and journeymen; nurses and night clerks; students and senior citizens; teachers and technicians; lawyers and laborers; city cops, county sheriffs, state police, customs officers, and Secret Service agents. They regulated and supervised themselves with a cadre of safety officers raised from their own ranks. They trained and tested and challenged and encouraged one another. They raised money for charities. They regularly performed shooting feats that would daunt those would-be government overlords who consider themselves the only ones professional enough to be armed. Some of them took home the occasional trophy. They teased each other in at least three languages and they laughed – they laughed a lot.
The firearms with which all these people did all these harmless things – Glock and Sig and Colt pistols; AR-15s and AK clones; pump and semi-automatic shotguns – are precisely the firearms that are, in pronouncements of cynical and gratuitous slander, denounced from behind Washington DC podiums as being of "no sporting use," and having as their only purpose "to kill as many people as possible."
You're invited, you know. We are one of the the first International Defensive Pistol Association clubs ever founded and we pride ourselves on being a teaching club. We've constituted ourselves especially to safely welcome, train, supervise, encourage and advance new shooters. So you're welcome to join us, any time. The picnic match is the third Saturday of January every year, and we'd love for you to bring your kids.
Unless you'd rather not.
Unless you'd rather your child prepared for a pageant, or played baseball, or practiced her violin, or worked on his chess game, or watched some "Phineas and Ferb," or got his pinewood derby car ready for the Cub Scout races, or did her chores.*** Unless you'd rather have nothing whatsoever to do with firearms, ever. You're welcome to join us, but you certainly don't have to if you'd rather not. Here's the only thing, though. We promise to let you spend your Saturday with your kids any way you please and that you think is good for them. We promise not to interfere.
All we ask, if you don't want to join us, is that you promise the same.
* Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Prov. 22:6
** Alright, I confess it. The day was not entirely injury-free: One little boy did develop an ouchie red blister on his thumb from loading so many magazines.
*** Of course, our kids all do that stuff, too. The two sisters, for example, appeared agreeably disposed by the time they had to leave with their parents to dress up for the cheerleading awards banquet.