In the not-so-distant past, there was a time when the only fake news were the tabloids at the supermarket checkout aisle. Today however, we are sifting through our so-called mainstream media trying to decipher truth from deception. Corruption drives the spin on stories and liberal propaganda is being forced upon us from every direction. The Second Amendment is under fire like never before. Distortion of gun facts is so blatantly obvious, it leaves us shaking our heads. One of those so-called facts would be that the number of youth who support the Second Amendment is on the decline. This number is far from dwindling, as evidenced from a growing number of teens involved in the shooting sports. But while see the marches and protests of the anti-gun youth covered in great detail, we fail to see the youths who take a stand for gun rights. Make no mistake, just because you don’t see the coverage, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
I had the opportunity to attend the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF) National Championships at the Ohio Cardinal Center in Marengo, Ohio, this week. The SSSF is an educational-athletic organization that introduces teens to the shooting sports and facilitates their continued involvement by providing, promoting and perpetuating opportunities to safely participate in and compete in a high-quality, team-based sport led by trained adult coaches focused on enhancing the personal growth and development of their athletes. The SSSF is 501(c)(3) public charity responsible for all aspects of the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP) across the United States. The SCTP and SASP are youth-development programs in which adult coaches and volunteers teach and demonstrate sportsmanship, responsibility, honesty, ethics, integrity, teamwork and other positive life skills. The SCTP was developed as a program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) until the SSSF was created in 2007. Five years later, the SSSF created the SASP and became the managing foundation of both programs.
Contrary to what most media outlets lead you to believe, this event had an astounding record number of entrants this year, reflecting a growing interest in the shooting sports and Second Amendment among teens. Rick Leach, SASP’s national director, said that with the record number of participants—1,222 entries from 518 athletes—the 2018 SASP National Championships is the largest Youth Action Shooting event in the world, and the largest Steel Match in history. This is no exaggeration. I witnessed just how big this event is. As I went into the registration building to obtain my press pass, I asked which section of the grounds would be hosting the SSSF youth competition. She replied, “All of it. Everyone here is here for that purpose.” Walking onto the grounds, seeing the number of participants, and the adults supporting them, was a bittersweet moment. All these youth, working hard and competing, yet there are no news crews to share their joy.
These youngsters are not shooting at cans for practice. This is a sport, a sport where youth train diligently and work hard, not only on their skills but also academically. “Through a variety of fun, team-based shooting tournaments, … we provide student athletes … 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,” as the SSSF website says.
The participants are educated, well-mannered, youngsters. There is something to be said for an organization that teaches respectful discipline while involving adults who offer encouragement. All of this in a gun-centered environment.
I met Kaitlyn and Nicholas along with Kaitlyn’s mother as I was walking the grounds. Kaitlyn is 17 and getting ready to begin her senior year. Nicholas is 18 and set to begin college. These young adults were articulate, bright, energetic and respectful. Both were honor students, with Kaitlyn maintaining a 4.0. Both took the time to give me their insights about the Second Amendment and why they compete in this sport.
“I am a proud member of the NRA. That is so important to me. SCTP builds character and instills into youth the importance of the Second Amendment,” Kaitlyn said. “This is so important because it is the youth that will keep it alive. I truly believe if you take away the Second Amendment, then only the bad people will have guns. It’s that simple. The sport of shooting also builds strong bonds. We travel the country and get to shoot. We make close friends and connections through this sport. We also are encouraged to maintain responsibility as well as good academic standards.”
Her friend shares her views.
“The shooting community and this sport are different than the other sports most youth are involved in. We are essentially competing against each other, but we aren’t rivals. Everyone is pretty much friends. It’s a healthy competition and we encourage each other,” Nicholas said. “I’m 18 and I’m still doing it, so that says a lot. I believe the Second Amendment is so important. The thought of people turning in their guns is ignorant. The law-abiding citizens will, but seriously, people that shave off serial numbers aren’t the kind of that will turn in their guns. Then they’re the ones who have them and we don’t.”
The event offered proof that there is more good than bad that comes from shooting and the shooting sports. There are thousands of youth who are being mentored to become upstanding, intelligent and confident citizens. Adult shooters and Second Amendment advocates are encouraging and teaching these youth responsibility and accountability—not only in life, but also in terms of gun handling and academics. So, ignore the biased media spin when they tell you of the dark and bleak state of guns in our nation. It couldn’t be further from the truth.