I think it is no secret that I spent my childhood immersed in gun culture. Growing up in the Gulf South in the 1970s and 80s under the watchful eye of my grandpa (a retired 30-year SNCO) I got my first pellet gun at age six, my first .22LR two years later, and harvested my first deer– with a milsurp 8mm Mauser as tall as I was– before I left grade school. Added to this was Scouts, JROTC (where we fired Mossberg 442s in class against a sandbagged target trap every Friday!), hunting trips with my friends, and neighborhood turkey shoots, followed by working in a local gun store in my teens.
However, over the past several decades, the numbers of kids given the opportunity to shoot safely have greatly decreased, a sure bet that the number of responsible gun owners would shrink moving forward.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s hunting license sales index showed a 29 percent jump in new hunters taking the field in 2020 when compared to the previous year, climbing from an estimated 2.3 million in 2019 to over 3.2 million, gaining a legion equivalent to the population of Jacksonville, Florida, or Austin, Texas. Many of these were teens.
Besides apprentice hunters, the clay fields are also seeing big gains.
Following up on a record Fall Season, the USA Clay Target League told me last week that they will have a record 27,577 student-athletes representing 1,308 high school and college teams in 34 states participating in the league’s programs this spring, supported by 7,800 volunteers serving as coaches, range officers, and staff.
Maybe the kids will be alright.