In yet another reminder of how warped the right-wing gun obsession has become, a new gun nuttery trend is for parents to send children as young as nine to “specialized summer camps” where they will learn how to shoot at human targets with AR-15s before quickly pulling out a handgun to finish the job at closer range. Or as they call it: Practical shooting.
As if anticipating the eye-brow raising, the camps rebrand this thinly-veiled murder training as a “sport” and say the gun play is merely to distinguish it from other types of shooting competitions like target shooting.
Taking the “get them while they are young” approach to gun culture, the camps encourage children 9 years or older to become deadly efficient with firearms. The largest governing body of the “sport” is the United States Practical Shooting Association, which claims to have over 25,000 members. What could go wrong with teaching tens of thousands of young children how to maximize the body count in a shooting rampage? A few things, says Ladd Everitt, the director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Speaking with The Guardian, he pointed out some of the obvious dangers:
The lesson you are teaching children is that guns are the solutions to problems. There are plenty of other healthy sports that don’t involve the risk of accidental injury that practical shooting does and don’t involve teaching violence.
“Practical shooting” advocates retreat to the well-worn arguments used by the NRA. Teaching children to love guns means they will be safer with guns.
But while it is true that a child who has a healthy respect for guns in the home is less likely to accidentally use it when he discovers it in a closet, the NRA never gets around to mentioning that the probability that the child will intentionally use the gun on himself or others skyrockets. Having spent a summer training to aim at the chest and rapidly reload means that the possibility of greater casualties would likely also increase.
Aside from teaching “safety”, these camps are explicit about their desire to get kids to become gun obsessives. The goal isn’t just to train the trigger finger, but to fetishize the gun.
Aside from teaching shooting skills, the camps are intended to get more children interested in guns. Applicants to the MGM camp must write an essay about “how the second amendment to the US constitution applies to you today, to this training class”.
Those who want to attend the camp for a second year must complete 40 hours of community service. One camper completed his community service by attending rallies in support of gun rights, said Rhonda Gibson, coordinator of the MGM Sports Junior Camp. Every year, outside speakers lecture the campers on a variety of a topics. During a previous camp, a local sheriff came to speak to the children to urge them to lobby for gun rights.
This represents a major victory for conservatives, who frequently attempt to get guns into the hands of young children. For years, America has seen a decline in gun ownership even while the total number of gun sales has skyrocketed. Increasingly, the country is divided between people who hoard dozens of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition and everyone else. By targeting kids, the NRA and the USPSA are hoping to get a wider customer base. And it might just work.
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