By David A. Keene, President
Here, as in other parts of the country, folks are breaking out sweaters in preparation for fall and winter. The honking flights of Canada geese arriving or passing through is as clear a sign as the brisk mornings that fall is here. Soon the geese will be joined by flights of pintails and mallards, the whitetail rut will begin and it’ll be time to prepare for another terrific hunting season.
The National Matches at Camp Perry have been over for weeks, most gun collectors’ events are a few months in the future, and many within the shooting sports are looking forward to taking to the fields and waterways in pursuit of wild game for sport and table. In many areas of the country, sportsmen and women are already afield pursuing dove in the South and East, grouse and pheasant in the Midwest and West, or hunting bigger game with muzzleloader and bow.
Men, women and children join the NRA for many different reasons. We are competitive shooters and plinkers, big game and bird hunters, gun collectors and re-enactors, military and law enforcement veterans, and folks who simply want to be prepared to protect our families, homes and country. Together, we give life to the Second Amendment and are a powerful cultural and political voice for traditional values, individual responsibility and gun safety.
Our opponents recognize that our strength derives from the life we breathe into the Second Amendment every day. They spend as much or more time and effort seeking to deny us the opportunity to exercise our rights as they do trying to rewrite the Constitution. They know that if we can’t exercise our rights many of us will lose interest in the fight to preserve them. That’s why they are constantly seeking to limit hunting on public lands, supporting efforts to close down shooting ranges and harassing holders of Federal Firearms Licenses. It’s why they suggest higher taxes on ammunition and are doing all they can to keep us from bringing young people into the shooting sports.
It’s why we are spending so much time and effort to make sure these efforts don’t succeed. It’s why we devote significant resources to assisting the Boy and Girl Scouts, the 4-H shooting program, and why we’re redoubling our campaign to attract more high school-aged young people to the Youth Hunter Education Challenge. It is why we fight the so-called animal “rights” movement and anti-hunting legislation in Congress and the states. It’s why we work to attract and train those newly interested in self-defense and the shooting sports so that they will not only realize their own desires, but will become part of the community of citizens dedicated to doing whatever might prove necessary to protect our Second Amendment rights.
Most of us appreciate the need to attract new men and women to the cause. We can be proud that much of NRA’s membership growth in recent years has come from women and returning veterans. This growth results from our determination to maintain and increase our strength in the face of the many threats we are faced with as we approach the 2012 elections.
We do what we do in the political world because if we fail there, we will lose our ability to defend our homes and families, to take our kids to the range on a Saturday afternoon, or to take to the field in pursuit of game and good times.
I recently asked NRA staff what percentage of the millions of dollars in grants made by local organizers of our Friends of NRA banquets goes to youth programs. Many of these grants go to shooting teams in high schools, range access for young people and other vital causes. I was pleasantly surprised, but certainly not shocked, by the answer. Nearly 90 percent of the grants approved last year went to youth programs and to attracting a new generation to the shooting sports—our members understand the importance of such programs.
I wasn’t shocked because, frankly, virtually every NRA member, hunter and shooter I have talked to over the years knows instinctively that to be able to enjoy the shooting sports we have to make sure that we do all we can to encourage new shooters, hunters and Second Amendment supporters.
We do it for them, for the sport and because if we don’t, we all lose.