Classification and Divisions

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Attendance fall off at organized shooting events is the biggest problem facing advancing gun owner skill and improving the perception of gun ownership by the general public. Ignorant gun owners scoff about not caring what their non-gun owning neighbors think while ignoring the fact that pro-gun initiatives would be much easier if those neighbors had a reason to hold a positive opinion on it.

As it stands today, only 2% of the card-carrying NRA membership has never attended a NRA Sanctioned or Approved event. Back in the early 1960s, this was over 30%. Worse, the raw number has declined from a high of about 130,000 participants to around 95,000 today.

Part of that attendance fall off is shooters deciding to take up a different discipline. Camp Perry attendance peaked in the early 1960s and that was when rifle shooters could only choose between High Power or Smallbore and Pistol was Bullseye (or perhaps PPC if you were a cop.) I know some shooters in traditional disciplines don’t like the new options but I’d rather have gun owners participating in something that appeals to them than not at all.

Equipment isn’t the biggest factor concerning score but it is a factor. I’d address this by expanding the Classification system and equipment Divisions. Five or six skill groups for all shooters isn’t broad enough. High school sports have more than this and that doesn’t take Little League/Pop Warner/Pee Wee leagues, Junior Varsity, and other local leagues into account. College, semi-pro, and pro are entirely different groups with their own strata.

A competitive shooter “disadvantaged” by equipment but consistently capable of shooting a given score is at no real disadvantage when assessed in a peer group of people consistently shooting similar scores regardless of the reason why.

Add to this recognition of different equipment. As an example, USPSA has about six recognized divisions (it might be more by the time I finish this email) and it makes for a diverse group of options where almost any handgun can find a competitive role.

To keep some sanity and avoiding a “trophies for everyone!” issue, I’d only recognize a given division or classification if there is at least a minimum number of participants (say, about 6 or more for local matches) so there is a sort of mini match inside the match that is competitive for each group.

FWIW, but experience indicates the NRA doesn’t seem terribly interested in furthering their shooting sports by increasing participation. Their own membership base is a 98% no-show

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H.S. Ball Sports and Shooting

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https://www.statista.com/statistics/267955/participation-in-us-high-school-football/
1,039,079 total high school football players (11-player gridiron) in the 2017/18 school year (1,036,842 male, 2,237 female)

High school football participation continues to drop as concerns over cost, injuries persist
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/08/28/high-school-football-participation-continues-to-drop-as-concerns-over-cost-injuries-persist/

The problems facing high school football don’t appear to be going away, and according to new data released by the National Federation of State High School Associations, neither is the downward trend in participation.

Fewer than 1.04 million high school students played football in 2017. That’s 20,000 fewer athletes than in 2016, a 2 percent drop. [emphasis added.]

What does this have to do with gun owners? Compare the numbers.

A two percent drop in high school football player participation is about the total amount of current card-carrying USPSA or IDPA members.

And that’s just gridiron football. High school basketball has about the same total number with nearly one million participants.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/267942/participation-in-us-high-school-basketball/

Add in nearly a million high school soccer players, about a half million high school baseball players, another half million for volleyball, and a 1/3 million for softball and you have more active ball sport participants in high school than the NRA has total members.

http://www.nfhs.org/ParticipationStatics/PDF/2014-15_Participation_Survey_Results.pdf
https://www.nfhs.org/ParticipationStatics/ParticipationStatics.aspx/

And these numbers are active participants and does not count spectators, fans, supportive friends and family, and any other non-player that is involved.

As far as shooting, there are just over 5,000 high school marksmanship competitors (1,025 Air Rifle and 4,238 Riflery). And before you wrongly assume this is due to some anti-gun policy at the schools, consider that only about 2% of NRA members hold a Classification, something that can be earned by merely participating in a Sanctioned (Registered or Approved) tournament.
https://firearmusernetwork.com/nra-classification-fall-off/

These are the real reasons ball sports get media coverage and shooting does not.

Background Checks Ineffective

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California’s comprehensive background check and misdemeanor violence prohibition policies and firearm mortality
Annals of Epidemiology, October 2018

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1047279718306161#

The simultaneous implementation of a comprehensive background check (CBC) and misdemeanors violence policies (MVP) were not associated with a net change in the firearm homicide rate over the ensuing 10 years in California. The decrease in firearm suicides in California was similar to the decrease in nonfirearm suicides in that state. Results were robust across multiple model specifications and methods.

Abstract
In 1991, California implemented a law that mandated a background check for all firearm purchases with limited exceptions (comprehensive background check or CBC policy) and prohibited firearm purchase and possession for persons convicted within the past 10 years of certain violent crimes classified as misdemeanors (MVP policy). We evaluated the population effect of the simultaneous implementation of CBC and MVP policies in California on firearm homicide and suicide.

Methods
Quasi-experimental ecological study using the synthetic control group methodology. We included annual firearm and nonfirearm mortality data for California and 32 control states for 1981–2000, with secondary analyses up to 2005.

Results
The simultaneous implementation of CBC and MVP policies was not associated with a net change in the firearm homicide rate over the ensuing 10 years in California. The decrease in firearm suicides in California was similar to the decrease in nonfirearm suicides in that state. Results were robust across multiple model specifications and methods.

Conclusions
CBC and MVP policies were not associated with changes in firearm suicide or homicide. Incomplete and missing records for background checks, incomplete compliance and enforcement, and narrowly constructed prohibitions may be among the reasons for these null findings.

Dealing With The Media

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How to Prepare for an Interview, What to Do During an Interview, and How To Sound Like A Professional Spokesperson

Here are tips from Terri Parker, a veteran Investigative Reporter for the ABC news affiliate WPBF 25 NEWS concerning talking to reporters:

“Reporters are looking for two main things. First, you need to be able to describe why you are there and what you are doing in a short, succinct and fully formed sentence or two – leaving out any jargon.

Second, you need to explain why people – the viewers – should care.

Prior to the interview:

Have four or five “Press Kits” ready. You will keep one and give one to each network representative who shows up. Purchase two-sided pocket folders. On the right side, there should be slits so a business card can be inserted. Insert your card, or a card with the contact information for your organization, into the slits. Insert a copy of your press release in the left pocket. This is the only document that goes in the left pocket.

In the right pocket, insert Fact Sheets printed on 20-pound paperweight, bright, white paper. The Fact Sheets can come directly off of your organization’s website, or that of a like-minded organization. These are never copyrighted and available for use by anyone. Behind the Fact Sheets, insert two-three sheets of paper containing relevant research on the subject. This may include studies or polls released by reputable non-biased agencies, preferably with websites with a URL ending in .edu or .gov. Finally, if there is any relevant legislative issues or bills being introduced that will affect your issue, print out and provide those as well. Reporters will be much more open to airing or printing stories they don’t have to research entirely on their own. You’ve done that for them.

How to Prepare for an Interview

When the media shows up to your event or invites you to the studio for an interview, follow these tips so you can be prepared. Anticipate common questions, such as:

· What group do you represent? Know the exact legal name, including the Inc. and if applicable, add that it is a 501 c(3) non-profit organization.

· What is your position within the group? If you are a volunteer, say so. If you are an employee or board member, state that as well.

· What are you there for today? Be sure to know specifics and give full names.

· Why is it important for the public to be aware of this issue? State how it affects them directly.

· What is a better solution? Always have an answer to a problem. Never present a problem without presenting one or more solutions to consider.

· What can the viewers at home do about this? Give precise answers.

· What do you say to people who say (insert opponent’s argument?) Know all of your opponent’s arguments and how to counter them.

Make sure you can answer these common questions with just one or two sentences. Unless your interview is being broadcast live, it will probably be edited down to one or two sound bites, or 20 seconds of talk, so make them count. You can practice your interviewing skills by having someone ask you questions about the issue or your group.

What to Do During an Interview

Start by thanking the reporter for covering the issue. Don’t be profuse. Just a “thanks for coming” is better than over-enthusiasm for the media presence. Don’t waste a minute of yours or their time.

If you are being interviewed by a television crew, remember to look at the interviewer and not the camera.

Do not be emotional. Be matter-of-fact. Don’t come off as over-sensitive or hysterical. If you feel you cannot stay calm and businesslike, ask someone else to take the interview.

What if you are asked a question for which you have no answer?

· If the interview is being broadcast live, say that you don’t know the answer, and then redirect the conversation toward a topic that you do know.

· If the interview is not being broadcast live, offer to get back to the reporter later with an answer. Reporters work on very tight deadlines, so get the information and follow up as soon as possible, preferably within a couple of hours. At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer again. If you feel the interviewer has not asked the right questions and the interview appears to be ending soon, be proactive and speak up!

Quickly add, “I’d just like to conclude by saying . . .”

The most important take-away is to be on point, conversational, and passionate. Hit your key points on camera succinctly. You can explain all of the background off camera.

Why Has Competition Slowed?

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http://gunsmagazine.com/classic-guns-magazine-editions/
Review these old gun magazines and you’ll see the importance of competition back in the 1950 and 1960s.

http://www.gunsmagazine.com/1956issues/G1256.pdf
page 5-6, lists various match results

http://www.gunsmagazine.com/1958issues/G0258.pdf
page 5, Bill Toney, Askins, Hebard competition shooters writing articles with content about competitions
“My Favorite Gun” section features a conventional pistol competitor.

http://www.gunsmagazine.com/1956issues/G0756.pdf
page 14, “Why Doesn’t Shooting Go Professional?”
That issue began with an interview with pistol champ Harry Reeves.

http://www.gunsmagazine.com/1960issues/G0260.pdf
Four competition articles. The magazine has a specific “Competition” section because it regularly published enough material on this in every issue to warrant a dedicated section.

Consider the state of the NRA membership and its Competition Division back in 1961.

Back then, with a membership of 418,000 total, the NRA boasted 120,367 classified competitors and the Marksmanship Qualification Program had 374,112 participants. That is, roughly 29% of the membership was classified in formal competition and 90% participated in the MQP. Page 49 of that same issue details a drive for 500,000 members by using the Marksmanship Qualification Program and a push to get every NRA member involved.

Today, with over 4 million members, a tenfold increase, less than 100,000 members are classified shooters (about 2%) and the Marksmanship Qualification Program isn’t even tracked despite advances in information processing and computers.

Some time ago, I was considered for a writing job sponsored by a nationally-recognized firearm/outdoor distributor and edited by a nationally-recognized publisher with a readership of around a quarter million subscribers. The Editor-In-Chief, who knew me from my various writing and editing work as well as my competitive shooting background, told me plainly they would not entertain any formal marksmanship instruction material and specifically shunned competition-specific coverage. This wasn’t due to a bias from the company, publisher, or editor, rather, it was due to them tracking reader feedback. Detailed marksmanship training beyond introductory fluff tracked the lowest interest and anything competition specific was notably poor. The subscribers simply weren’t interested. They were rather interested in gear reviews, product releases, and gun politics. So the general gun owning public is vitally interested in being told what toys to buy and maintaining their right to continue doing so but has little interest in how to actually use the stuff beyond a novice level.

Tony Brong on Marketing

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Precision Pistol shooter Tony Brong provides wisdom

http://tonybrong.blogspot.com/2016/08/during-entire-tenure-with-bullseye-ive.html

During my entire tenure with bullseye, I’ve heard nothing but how far the sport has declined. From a practical viewpoint, I really haven’t been around that long. And I don’t have firsthand personal experience about how things were back-in-the-day. Apparently, fifteen, twenty or more years ago there must have a lot more bullseye shooters.

I still hear stories about how the census of pistol shooters at the Nationals numbered around one thousand in the early 1980s. Today it’s generally about 650.

Time changes everything. In prior posts even I’ve lamented about how the shooting pie has been carved up by cowboy action shooters, practical guys, clay smashers and the benchrest dudes. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that even WWII and Civil War reenactors have had a slight drain on our census. From the 1930s through the 70s bullseye might have been pretty much the only game in town, but that’s not the case today.

Social transformation is like death and taxes, something everyone can count on. A lot of emotional effort has spilled over the turbulent ‘decline’ of Bullseye, and it’s been marked with the same breathless, excitable, often crude and always knowing style that typifies the old hardcore elite: by doing things the same old way.

My own experience getting into the sport wasn’t exactly easy. My kids went off to college and I searched for an interesting and challenging hobby. I now had some leisure time. It took me the better part of a year to find out that competitive pistol shooting was only four miles away from my front door. And I doubt with the passing of about a decade, access or visibility hasn’t gotten any better. Today, the general promotion of our sport to the public and potential new shooters is simply by word of mouth.

Many of us mourn the slow erosion of our sport, and ponder: is it too late to revitalize it?
I don’t think so.

There are a few success stories around. One bright spot is occurring now in New Jersey. It’s a quantifiable success story, playing out in a state that’s considered very anti-gun. Within the confines of the Garden Sate, individuals such as Ray and Mary Badiak, John Gemmill and Frank Greco are consistently blazing a trail by developing new bullseye shooters—both young and mature.
They’ve been successful in a state which has the most draconian gun laws in the country. It’s a process that reproducible, but no one seems to notice their success.

If you can do it in Jersey, you can do it anywhere.

After a little head scratching I looked at some of the other disciplines and noticed how they do things. One observation that’s fairly obvious, they compete, compete for new members and promote themselves to the general public.

So, what are the glaring things we don’t do?

It appears most state associations don’t know how to run a modern marketing organization—and whether they know it or not—that’s what they’re in business to do. They should be promoting (which means marketing and advertising) the shooting sports. After that’s established, as a secondary issue, handle their respective lobbing tasks.

How many news releases do they routinely offer to the local media outlets? Your guess is as good as mine.

Those same state organizations should attempt to forge regional coalitions for the promotion of various disciplines, since many of us routinely cross state lines to compete.

A national or regionalized websites should be crafted and have match announcements, results and signup functionality. As well, background information for consumption by the general public should be amply provided. Points of contact should be visibly listed so budding bullseye shooters can get started. And it should have good and consistently updated content.

Let’s consider the following:

• Who hasn’t been to an NRA banquet? Well, what’s being done to raise money for the orderly operation of our sport? The truth is the NRA no longer sees us as a priority. It would be nice to see not just bullseye but various other competitive shooting disciplines on the American Rifleman television show much more frequently. [That’s code for picking up the phone and calling Larry Potterfield and others like him.] Yes, money drives television programming. But keep in mind, individuals paying for programming have every right to maximize their investment by targeting their audience. Maybe they should be made aware we are their consumers too.

• Have there been any real efforts in recruiting bullseye shooters over the past 10 years? IPSC, CAS, USPSA, IDPA … they do. I can’t recall the last time any of us have seen the following: A dedicated NRA webpage for Bullseye Pistol; national leadership for the promotion of our sport; junior development; and a mechanism to recruit women.

• Even though there’s a historical claim, the simple truth is there’s no functioning leadership for our sport. We’ve relied on the NRA to do all of this in a vacuum. And as a matter of course, they’ve simply done things the same old way for the past half century. And in the process, they’ve lost their way.
I’m not suggesting they not be responsible for this mission. But we, as competitors, have lacked the will to actually lobby them. I highly doubt that the Competitions Division rarely hears from shooters except when they want something for themselves. And the same may be true of the state associations when they approach the NRA.

Walt Walters, an NRA board member, over the past two years has attempted to rework this model. He can recall a time, in the not so distant past, when the NRA had state and regional competitive shooting ambassadors. These individuals were readily available to provide guidance and insight to local clubs, state associations and government. Walt’s goal is to rebuild that old army of supporters so they can be of assistance throughout the country.

Even though Walt is a board member, he’s facing a tough uphill road with accomplishing his goals. Unfortunately, I think he’s looking at the past to address his present concerns about competitive shooting’s current neglect.

Here’s my basic observation. For a group of people who traditionally think of themselves as competitors, that’s precisely what we don’t do in the open marketplace of ideas. We all want to shoot (and I’m guilty of this too) but few of us want to roll up our sleeves. Over the past three decades we’ve allowed an enormous number of people to gravitate to other disciplines.

The other shooting sports embraced potential shooters, or we allowed them to leave our discipline even before they had an opportunity to arrive. They were marketed to, invited, sold—and best of all—greeted with open arms. For the most part the majority of those newbies didn’t even know we existed.
The future can be ours. All we have to do is be involved.

Get Gun Owners To Be Shooters

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https://ricochet.com/422134/taking-it-off-the-streets/

Taking It Off the Streets
By Kevin Creighton

There’s been a tremendous increase in gun ownership in the past few years, but that gun-buying bubble will pop unless those new gun owners find something to do with their guns other than keeping them unloaded under their beds and hoping they will keep the bad guys away.

Owning a gun should not be a fad. CB radios went away because people found out that there was little to do with a CB except talk to truckers. If we want guns to be something other than tactical pet rocks, we need to introduce gun owners to activities they can do to improve their ability to use a gun under stressful conditions, without throwing them into the ring of competition right from the start with little or no training.

Enter Shoot and Scoot Range Days, put on by Step By Step Gun Training.
https://stepbystepguntraining.com/ssgt-scoot-and-shoot/

This event features simple, easy to follow practical shooting stages that use reactive steel targets to give instant feedback on whether you hit the target (or not) and easy-to-follow courses of fire that use shooting boxes to delineate what targets must be engaged from which positions. The round counts are low (under 25 rounds per stage) and most importantly, the focus of the Range Day isn’t on winning a match, it’s on improving your skills and getting comfortable with carrying a gun in a holster.

A typical Shoot and Scoot Range session consists of two pistol-shooting bays set up for easy-to-shoot courses of fire for people who want to work on drawing from a holster and safely moving with their gun and a bay with a more advanced course of fire that brings in the defensive use of a rifle into the mix. In addition to range officers (who get a big discount on the practice fee in return for their services) on each stage, there’s also a instructor dedicated to teaching first-time attendees how to safely draw from holster and move with their gun. The sessions are three hours long, which is enough time to run through all the courses of fire at least three times, and while timers are in use on the stages, scores are not kept, and the time is used more to gauge personal improvement than who recorded the fastest time on the stage.

Shoot and Scoot Range Days aren’t there to give people a chance to win a match, they’re to give people the experience of being at a match. Attendees get a taste of what it’s like to safely operate a firearm under a small amount of simulated stress, without the stage fright and anxiety that comes from being judged by your peers on your performance. More importantly, people at this event get a feel for what it’s like to carry a gun around on your hip for hours on end.

You would think that’s a common thing among people who have their concealed carry permits and own a defensive pistol, but you’d be wrong. At a recent industry-only event put on by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, some participants were amazed by how few people within the firearms industry itself had any experience drawing a gun from a holster and putting rounds on-target. [This same problem exists among uniformed military personnel.]

If this is the case inside the firearms industry, imagine what it’s like for those on the outside. If we want “Gun Culture 2.0” to truly become a culture, that means that the having a defensive firearm on you or near you needs to be as natural and as normal has having a smartphone on you or near you at all times.

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