Shelley Rae didn’t grow up shooting or hunting. But after shooting her first gun at the age of 19, the 27-year-old magazine editor has certainly made up for lost time.
Now Shelley makes her living in the firearms industry. And she’s quick to promote the self-awareness and self-esteem fostered by the shooting sports, as well as the healthy lifestyle required to excel at hunting and competitive shooting.
Many people think of gun owners as the Boyd Crowders and Ernest Hemingways of the world, but the face of American gun ownership is changing faster than you might realize.
True, a lot of us hunt, but what can I say? We like humanely grown, humanely harvested organic meat and giving our money to animal conservation efforts.
Some of us like to collect old and unique firearms. My husband covets his Beretta 92 Type M. It’s an obscure gun; you probably haven’t heard of it.
A lot of us lack even that background, though, myself included. Like so many of my generation, I grew up in suburbia. I didn’t start shooting until I was 19. However, I was in elementary school when I helped my dad host my first LAN party; I drew the Doom symbol on a bunch of pieces of printer paper and hung them around the living room. And my friends in high school used to get mad at me for only using the sticky bomb and the energy sword in Halo. I wasn’t any good with the guns, but I could jump in and then run away pretty readily.
My real fascination with guns, though, was thanks to “The Boondock Saints.” I guess it just came into my life at the right time, and boy, did I want a Beretta 92FS like the MacManus brothers had. What I ended up with, though, was a shotgun, which turned into a job at a gun range, which turned into a 1911, and an AR-15, and a Smith & Wesson M&P. It evolved into writing gigs, editorial positions and eventually my own magazine.
I never did get a 92FS, but over time I learned a lot about guns—real guns—and it changed my life completely. Never in my life had I considered the power of someone looking in my eyes and saying, “Your life is worth defending.” Never in my life had I seriously worked out until I tried to run a two-minute course of fire while holding up a shotgun.
My story is the story of a generation—of kids who grew up with a curiosity, but without education. Fear teaches nothing and saves no one. But information is the key to safe, responsible gun handling and gun ownership. For us, for my generation dug into the heart of suburbia, playing our video games and idly wondering what the real thing is, finding that information can be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be.
Every single person deserves the discovery of self-esteem and self-awareness that comes with shooting. Everyone deserves the healthy lifestyle required to excel at hunting and competition. And all of us deserve the freedom of choice that comes with being a gun owner in America.
The information to pursue this lifestyle is out there, and it’s becoming more and more accessible to more and more people. It’s time for all of us to stop stereotyping and get educated.