President’s Column | The Sport That Makes America Safer

posted on July 18, 2023
Charles L. Cotton

Americans are voting with their wallets, and Second Amendment freedom is selling like hotcakes! The most-recent statistics as this was being written show that last month—for the 46th month in a row—Americans bought more than a million firearms. That’s 50 million firearms over the past four years alone. In fact, April 2023 saw the third-highest monthly gun-sales total since background-check figures started being tallied 30 years ago.

It’s easy to see why. With crime skyrocketing in many cities, and with President Biden and his anti-gun allies vowing to ban many of the most-popular firearms on the market, Americans are investing in their families’ security while they still have a chance.

Not surprisingly, many of these firearm purchasers are first-timers. From January 2020 to April 2021, more than 5 million Americans became first-time gun owners. That’s more than double the number of first-time purchasers in 2019.

One of the most important things we can do, as NRA members and fellow gun owners, is to help these millions of new gun owners become millions of safe gun owners. How? By helping them not only to own Second Amendment freedom, but also to exercise it as well.

The highest purpose of a firearm is to protect innocent lives. For America’s newest gun owners, this is often their number-one reason for buying their first firearm.

But simply owning a gun isn’t enough. Being prepared to protect yourself takes practice. I’ve been a firearms instructor for over 40 years. I believe in training and practice. That said, I don’t want to be perceived as someone who would deny Second Amendment freedom to anyone based upon a lack of formal training. People without any training often successfully defend themselves with firearms in their homes and elsewhere. However, luck is not a prudent defensive strategy. Confidence comes only with competence, which in turn requires experience. Gun-safety habits only become ingrained through repetition, familiarity, “muscle memory” and the instinctive discipline that results from training. (You can learn more about the effect this has on fear-reduction in Sheriff Jim Wilson’s Straight Talk column “Controlling our Fear” in the June 2023 issue of NRA’s Shooting Illustrated.)

So, I call on every NRA member to reach out to these new constituents and stakeholders in Second Amendment freedom. Because they need us, we need them, and whether or not they know it yet, they are our natural allies. Let me explain.

The legacy media and anti-gun lobby like to dismissively slur those buying firearms today as “a bunch of old white guys,” but retailers know the truth: One Harvard study found that about half of all gun purchases between 2019 and 2021 were by women. Between 2005 and 2020, the number of women gun owners increased by 77%. Minorities are also embracing their most-fundamental freedom. After the pandemic hit in 2020, retailers reported that firearm purchases increased by almost 60% among black Americans, nearly 50% among Hispanics and more than 40% among Asians.

Many of these new gun owners feel abandoned by the very politicians who pretend to protect them. For example, for many years, the anti-gun crowd tried to frighten women away from owning a gun, claiming that an attacker would only use it against them and suggesting they simply “give an attacker what he wants.” What audacity!

Urban dwellers are also feeling betrayed, as big-city politicians not only refuse to protect them—by pushing progressive “defund the police” and “roll back prosecutions” policies—but also refuse to allow them to protect themselves, with gun bans and increasingly widespread “no carry” so-called “Gun Free Zones.” How’s that for “progress?”

Reverence and respect for freedom shouldn’t be a partisan issue. The right to protect yourself is the most-fundamental right we have. It cuts across every demographic group. It is the one freedom that guarantees the safety of all of us, regardless of gender, race, income, heritage, class, creed or any other measure.

So, this August, for National Shooting Sports Month, do your part to welcome these new friends of firearm freedom. Consider hosting “women-only” gun-safety training and other events at your local range. Reach out to under-served communities in your area. Invite them to your gun club or range. Consider mentoring young or novice shooters.

You can go to to find NRA events in your hometown or to to get a rundown of local competitions this month or to to find out how NRA can assist your gun club or range.

I believe there’s a lot more we all can do to serve, inspire and activate these millions of new gun owners. Together, by sharing our knowledge and expertise with these new gun owners, we can ignite a passion for freedom among millions of additional Americans. In so doing, we can help perpetuate the same freedoms that protect our families and secure our nation as the birthright of future Americans.



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