Michael Rosenwald is a reporter for the Washington Post who goes wandering across the 14th Street bridge into Virginia and finds something he believes to be new and different with guns. Back in January he discovered a new attraction called Elite Shooting Sports located near Dulles Airport, which combines a gun range with a snazzy café, wi-fi lounge and various other Milennial-type amenities. Rosenwald promptly found four or five other such establishments popping up around the country and – voila! – a new trend in shooting sports was born.
Last week Rosenwald went across the bridge to Virginia again, then to Reagan Airport and ended up at MIT in Cambridge, MA where he discovered yet another new trend, in this case, a significant surge in shooting clubs and shooting activities on college campuses. Not just a significant increase in campus shooting sports, but according to Rosenwald, a “phenomenal” increase. MIT’s shooting program, like many campus programs, is partially funded by the gun industry through grants from the NSSF, along with additional support from the Midway Foundation, which is owned and operated by a very successful shooting accessories company from whom I have purchased my share of gear over the years.
In addition to evidently spending some time on the MIT campus, Rosenwald tapped into a cute blog on the MIT admissions website posted by a member of the team, Lydia, who describes herself as feeling “really, really badass” when she shot her 22-caliber rifle and won a certificate at the end of the semester for competing in the “Top Gun” competition. According to Lydia, shooting has taught her how to deal with pressure and, in the words of the team coach, never to “give up on the mission.” I’m sure that Lydia’s parents are relieved to know that the $60,000 yearly tuition fee is helping their daughter tighten her groups on the rifle range, but if Rosenwald believes that this kind of undergraduate pitter-patter is creating new customers for the gun industry, once again he’s showing his lack of knowledge about anything that has to do with guns.
If you do a story on the growth of shooting sports on college campuses, you should try and figure out whether this new trend will have any long-term impact on the gun industry as a whole. I should add, by the way, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the gun industry promoting shooting sports in whatever venue they can find. And notice that I say shooting ‘sports,’ as opposed to unending and nauseating attempts by the gun industry to justify its existence by pretending that armed citizens will protect us from crime. If anything, college kids tend to be more liberal than the blue-collar demographic that usually owns guns; if Sarah Palin thinks she’ll get the same reception at the collegiate clay target championships that she receives at the annual meeting of the NRA, she’s may be in for a big surprise.
Back in 2012 I teamed up with GroupOn to offer a promotion on my range. For a discounted price, folks could shoot 22-caliber and 9mm pistols at some zombie targets, and then get their picture on my Facebook page. More than 400 GroupOn customers came to my shop, roughly half were women, they were mostly between 20 and 35, most had never shot a gun before, and the majority worked in medicine, engineering and IT. Know how many guns I sold to this group over the following three years? Exactly one.
College is the quintessential life experience which allows you to do lots of things that may or may not be important later on. Which is why these students are having so much fun on the MIT rifle range. But it’s a kind of fun that doesn’t necessarily turn them into shooters for life or even purchasers of a single gun. And noisy campaigns to the contrary, I don’t notice college administrations rushing to lift prohibitions against guns in classrooms or in dorms.
Amazon has it.