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Marksmanship is dying: Part 1

posted in: Rant, Shooting 0

There’s one thing that has become very apparent regarding the shooting sports: marksmanship is dying. A few may go as far as to argue that marksmanship is dead.

I was browsing Fark a few weeks ago and found a link to an online article posing an open question to readers regarding the new Wii light gun accessory. One of the reader comments received stated:

Great, this is what we need. Children with guns learning how to aim and shoot. Then we can sit back and wonder what is happening to our country with kids killing kids……what’s next? Could we make it squirt blood, too?

That comment irked me quite a bit and it stuck in my mind for several days afterwards. For one, the reader apparently thinks that children shouldn’t learn how to “aim and shoot” which happens to be fundamentals for marksmanship. Second of all, the reader apparently correlates marksmanship to people killing other people.

It got me to thinking about our nation’s view of firearms and how it has been affecting marksmanship in our society. The core issue is that people still continue to equate guns to violence and killing. It is this sentiment that drives the anti-gun debate in our society. It is this anti-gun sentiment that is making a huge impact on marksmanship starting with our young adults.

In a conversation regarding firearms training with one of my colleagues at work recently, the degeneration of Junior ROTC marksmanship training was brought up. Junior ROTC programs in the 1980s and prior made firearms training a common part of the curriculum in middle schools and high schools. ROTC students actually went to a range and fired actual service rifles, and not just rimfire or air rifles. Sometime in the 1980s and after, less ROTC programs continued to carry on the tradition of marksmanship training, and more ROTC programs discontinued the incorporation of anything firearms related. Even ROTC drill teams don’t use demilled (permanently disabled) firearms. I remember back in high school, the ROTC drill team just marched around and used hand motions (almost akin to modern day fraternity ‘stepping’ teams).

Not to mention high schools no longer have any sort of shooting teams. There are still schools in the United States that actually have shotgun sports teams incorporated into school sports and even rifle teams. But for the most part, shooting sports are not a part of actual sanctioned school sports. If we had a school rifle team, even smallbore, back when I was high school, I definitely would have taken part and I wouldn’t have taken so long to actually shoot competitively (I didn’t start shooting competively until I long graduated from college and was in the work force).

At this point, you may wonder why not having sanctioned marksmanship training and competitions in primary schools is a bad thing. The lack of marksmanship training causes a lack of discipline among our teens. Being able to properly handle a firearm and to shoot precisely, accurately, and safely requires a lot of discipline and a lot of respect. It is this lack of discipline and respect that is “what is happening to our country with kids killing kids,” as the aforementioned reader so eloquently remarked. I think we should not be teaching kids that guns are bad. If anything, we should be teaching kids that taking another person’s life is bad. Teaching the value of human life will go a long way.

But I digress. We are seeing the impact of the decline of marksmanship training for our youth right now. It has been noted by some in the military that the percentage of recruits with any firearms experience is in a constant decline. Go to any shooting range and you’ll find the median age of the shooters is above 25. Go to a competitive shooting event and you’ll see the median age is also the same. Though, what is really discomforting is that this median age is going to continue to progress higher, until eventually, there are no more active shooters. Today’s shooters continue to get older, while new shooters are becoming less and less.

We really need to start to resuscitate shooting programs in public schools. Clays/Skeet/Trap shooting teams is a great way to start. Start incorporating rifle marksmanship, even air rifle and smallbore back into JROTC programs. It’s going to be difficult considering there are so many people that make the immediate correlation of violence with firearms. But if we are going to keep marksmanship alive in America, why need to start with our youth.

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