Photo: River Oaks Range Facebook
The River Oaks Firearms Training Center, in Winton, Calif., gives more people firearms training than any other range in the Golden State. Recently, its training included over 100 Girl Scouts from a local Girl Scout Council. The River Oaks Firearms Training Center gave them their first introduction to the shooting sports.
“All the girls learn about firearm history and safety, and depending on age, many have a chance to participate at the rifle range and the trap shooting range, along with trying out black powder rifle shooting and Western action shooting. There is also an archery workshop, and a wilderness survival class along the Merced River,” said the Merced County Times.
“I was a little nervous, but at the same time I wanted to know more about rifles and guns,” said 17-year-old Juniper Neff of Troop 130 in Lodi. “They are fascinating machines. The kick was stronger than I expected, but I’m better at shooting than I thought I would be. I think it’s a good experience, and it’s something good to be exposed to. It gives you confidence by just doing it. I’m not sure I will ever own one, but if I ever need to use one, I know I will do so safely.”
The Scouts were at the range thanks to a new partnership between River Oaks Firearms Training Center and the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California (HCC) Council that represents more than 18,000 girls in the region. Under the agreement, River Oaks will provide monthly training opportunities for interested Scout troops.
“This is a first for our council,” said Debbie Avila, the HCC’s community engagement manager. “Marksmanship has always been a part of our council, but we never had a partnership like this. The hope is to have our parents get involved and make it sustainable.”
In another example of this national trend, the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio Council offers Air Riflery 101 for Scouts and Air Riflery 101 for the younger Brownies. For both activities, the Council says, “Come to the target sports range at camp and enjoy a beginner’s course in air rifle shooting. GSNEO has partnered with NorthCoast Marksmanship Club (NCMC) to teach you air rifle basics like equipment safety, gear tutorials, proper shooting techniques, and how thrilling the sport of marksmanship can be!”
The Council also educates participants about shooting as a competitive sport.
“Did you know that marksmanship is an official Olympic sport? The United States has brought home 107 medals in marksmanship since the sport began in 1896! Who knows...maybe you’ll be the next to bring home the gold?”
Girl Scouts at the Girl Scouts Council of San Gorgonio, in Redlands, Calif., can also participate in that Council’s “Girls on Target Patch Program.” As the program’s flyer notes, “Girls on Target brings home the old saying that girls shoot better than boys! Shooting sports in America are rooted deep in our history. Learn about the history of firearms, laws, interesting careers, even how to shoot!”
At the successful completion of the program, the girls receive a Target Patch to display on their uniforms.
In all such activities, and no matter where the training occurs, Girl Scout Councils, instructors and volunteers are clear about one thing from the start: “Safety First!”
Other Girl Scout Councils offer similar opportunities. These programs to educate young women about firearms safety and marksmanship reflects the growing interest women in this nation have in shooting and the shooting sports.
Maybe even more importantly, these Girl Scouts also learn about the history of the American firearms culture and they begin to understand that the Second Amendment also protects their rights.
The fact that the shooting sports are increasingly popular with the Girl Scouts reflects a larger national trend, noted Ben Berka, president and executive director of the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF). Berka says he has seen youth participation in the shooting sports surge in the last decade, and the number of entries competing in the Scholastic Clay Target Program’s (SCTP) National Championships has grown from 2,600 in 2013 to just shy of 6,200 in 2019! Also, participation in the Scholastic Action Shooting Program has tripled since 2010.
This is a trend those who are opposed to our Second Amendment freedom are hoping will go away. This is unfortunate, because programs like the SCTP’s and the NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) teach young people to handle firearms safely and responsibly. These hands-on sports also teach them about their Constitutional rights; as a result, these young people will grow up to be adults who understand that firearms are part of their national heritage and a key component of their rights as citizens.