Less than 50 years ago, when my father was in school, he had the ability to take his firearm in for show-and-tell. In the school parking lot, everyone had a gun rack hanging visibly in the back glass of their trucks. This was before gun regulations became so strict. Our world has changed so much in the past 30 years that this picture is hard to paint. In today’s society, it feels like it’s almost a crime to say the word gun in public.
The shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Stoneman Douglas are horrific experiences that should never be forgotten. These situations make it easy to understand why guns frighten so many. These awful incidents are the reason our country’s gun regulations have grown so strict. While we need to have a system to determine who has the privilege to have a firearm or ammunition in their hands, our current system isn’t fixing anything. Our problem lies in the disconnect that these laws are creating. Rather than taking people’s rights away and avoiding conversations about firearms, we need to emphasize to the public that firearms are a tool. We need to explain how a firearm works. Until they are in the hands of someone with bad intentions, firearms do not have the power to kill people. People kill people.
Regulations are becoming stricter in the U.S. than ever before. According to the History Channel, federal age limits related to guns have not changed since 1994. These gun laws state that an adult under the age of 18 cannot purchase a rifle and an adult under the age of 21 cannot purchase a handgun.
Stricter company policies and state regulations are becoming common. For example, in February of 2018, several companies such as Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that they would no longer sell firearms or ammunition to individuals under the age 21. Many companies nationwide have begun to follow suit. I realize that there have been devastating situations in the past due to gun violence, but I do not believe age restrictions have in any way helped to prohibit people with mental health issues from accessing guns. These individuals can always find a way to get a gun, whether that’s by stealing or buying them off neighbors.
There are many things that are regulated by age, including tobacco and alcohol. We all know that underage people have ways to purchase these products through others. Similarly, gun laws can only regulate so much. Large companies raising the age to purchase something as simple as ammunition aren’t achieving anything except creating an inconvenience for law-abiding citizens who have the right to bear arms.
At 19 years old, I am an adult. I make my own choices and handle all of my purchases on my own, but I can’t buy ammunition until I’m 21. As someone who is active in the outdoors industry, this means I must ask someone else to purchase my ammunition. Large companies and government organizations should realize that the issue isn’t whether an individual is old enough to handle a gun, but whether that individual is properly educated.
Growing up, I developed a love for shooting sports at a young age. Whether I am competing in muzzleloading, archery, shotgun or small bore rifle, safety always comes first for me. This is not always the case, as more and more people become completely disconnected from the industry. This disconnect combined with a lack of knowledge concerning the power and safe use of firearms is the reason we are struggling with this issue as a country.
With proper education and more exposure to firearm safety, the U.S. would benefit. Today, people are so separated from firearms that often the only connection people have with guns are the unrealistic images that television and video games promote. If we spent more time educating the public on firearms, there would be less of a disconnect and more people would understand how a gun works. Not all people should have a firearm in their hands, but everyone should be aware of how they operate in case they attempt to use one.
There are many successful organizations that allow children to participate in shooting sports, including 4-H, FFA and NFAA. Due to the safety skills these organizations promote, I believe that if more people were involved in these organizations nationwide it would begin to solve our overall problem.
According to the Missouri 4-H Shooting Sports organization, its programs focus on promoting safe gun handling skills and sound fundamentals of shooting under the guidance of caring and knowledgeable adult volunteers. Organizations like Missouri 4-H Shooting Sports bring context to firearms that videos cannot. These organizations help individuals understand the reality of firearms while promoting safety and life skills.
As time passes, I hope that we can do a better job of educating the public about firearm safety. I hope that my children will not have to face these excessive laws, and that they will be able to purchase ammunition at 18 just like every American has the right to do.