Say you’re a prickly, gun-hating leftist type, and you see it as your mission to stamp out gun rights from sea to shining sea. Your central problem is this: Shooting guns is fun, it always has been fun, it always will be fun, and by describing it in any way whatsoever, you’re probably just going to prove how fun it is.
This is not a new dilemma for the anti-freedom types, but happily, it is a growing problem for them.
Gun sales aren't the only thing that have generally risen over the past decade or more;participation in the shooting sports has also been surging. A recent report by the National Sporting Goods Association found that “segments experiencing growth” include “Open Water Sports (+3.6 percent), Shooting Sports (+0.8 percent), Fitness Activities (+0.7 percent), Team Sports (+0.3 percent) and Outdoor Activities (+0.3 percent).”
Meanwhile, participation in the nationwide 4-H Shooting Sports Program has nearly tripled since 2009, and last year drew 336,558 program participants throughout the country. Now, some of these participants likely did more than one of the activities, but nevertheless the overall trend is clearly one of growth.
They all know that the shooting sports are fun, and are activities that builds character.The Boy Scouts’ shooting programs and many other youth organizations have also seen a lot of growth in recent years. They all know that the shooting sports are fun, and are activities that builds character. For example, here’s how the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation describes what it does for youths: “[We provide] student athletes aged elementary through college with a supportive environment where shooting sports serve as catalysts for teaching life lessons and skills that emphasize positive character traits and citizenship values. Throughout all training, practice and competitions, we continue to instill in our participants a commitment to safe firearm handling, teamwork and leadership.”
Nevertheless, anti-gun groups and legislators see this fun and character-building stuff as a bad thing. Recently, in Minnesota, the trapshooting team at Big Lake High School was even told they couldn’t have a photo of their members in their yearbook because their shotguns were in the picture.
Big Lake High School had a district blanket policy forbidding guns in school photos, no matter what. However, there was such an overwhelming show of community support to reverse the policy that common sense prevailed. Part of the reason for this is that high school team shooting sports have recently grown a lot in popularity. Even Bloomberg reported that trap shooting is actually the fastest growing high school sport in Minnesota.
According to a press release, Big Lake High School’s photo policy now reads: “Exception given to our school-sponsored trap-shooting team, which will be allowed to have team pictures in the yearbook, team poster displayed in the school, and any approved photos taken by yearbook staff. These photos would include their firearms.”
Meanwhile, in society in general, there are real, deep reasons why Hollywood glorifies the gun even as many of its producers and actors say they want guns banned. Shooting is fun. It also empowers the weak. We feel freedom in our hands when we maturely and responsibly use firearms. Guns are, quite literally, freedom’s tool.
We feel freedom in our hands when we maturely and responsibly use firearms.This is also why Western films resonate. Out there, in the exposed open, is a man or woman with a gun, a true individual who can take care of himself or herself. The gun doesn’t make this cowboy good or bad, but it does make him or her potentially lethal and very independent. That’s intoxicating. That’s a big part of the reason why the journalists who oppose gun rights keep losing battles. Though they have a lot of control over the messaging, they still lose the debate because people are drawn to freedom’s tool. When you shoot a gun safely and responsibly, you can’t help but get a big grin on your face.
I once asked novelist and former Washington Post movie critic Stephen Hunter about the mystique of the gun. We soon began talking about the 2007 film “Shooter,” based on Hunter’s thriller Point of Impact, and I wanted to know if he was happy with it and how we can help Hollywood get guns right more of the time.
He said, “The gun handling in ‘Shooter’ is on another level. They listened and got that right. Non-shooters won’t see that in the film, but anyone who knows how to handle a gun will recognize this and therefore find it real, authentic. That goes a long way to helping a film resonate. I am mostly happy with the film. The end though, when I saw it for the first time I was cringing and saying, ‘No, don’t shoot him.’”
In the film the character Bob Lee Swagger (played by Mark Wahlberg) is a U.S. Marine gunnery sergeant who served as a Force Recon Scout Sniper. He reluctantly leaves a self-imposed exile from his isolated mountain home in the Wind River Range at the request of Col. Isaac Johnson (played by Danny Glover) to help track down an assassin who plans on shooting the president. In the end, Swagger kills both conspirators—Johnson and Sen. Meachum—as they plan their next move while at the senator’s vacation home.
Steve said, “Swagger would never have killed the senator. It’s against his code. Hollywood and the urban segment of the audience don’t get that, but the millions of former military members and gun owners out there won’t, on a deep level, believe or feel good about this ending. Antoine Fuqua did a great job directing the film, but that ending was a big miss. They showed they really don’t understand the gun culture in America.”
So although Hollywood uses the mystique of the gun to sell movie tickets, and sometimes gets things right, movie producers still often misunderstand America in the process. Like driving, shooting is a fun, but also requires a lot of maturity. It is sad that some so misunderstand Americans and our freedom that they want to take it away—and that they even want to ban a high school trap team from being shown with their shotguns. (By the way, Stephen Hunter’s latest Bob Lee Swagger thriller, G-Man, is now available.)
Frank Miniteris the author of The New York Times bestseller The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide—Recovering the Lost Art of Manhood. He is also the author of This Will Make a Man of You and The Future of the Gun. He is a contributor to Forbes and writes for many publications. His website is FrankMiniter.com.