By Shepard Humphries
I’m not really interested in politics and am among a minority of shooting enthusiasts that decline to beg, berate or bribe those in government for their “gun rights.” There are plenty exciting organizations and people doing marvelous things in that department, and I have no quarrel with them. But as a pioneer in the entertainment shooting industry, I’m in the fortunate position to help create a new market and want to share some ideas about how even those who aren’t involved in the political process are benefiting the cause. Interestingly enough, Don Wills, currently a Congressional candidate, gave me the idea for luxury entertainment shooting . . .
Besides using them for protection and making sure there’s meat on the table, people have enjoyed shooting guns for hundreds of years. Shotgun games have traditionally been the most popular in the commercial entertainment shooting industry.
Over the last couple of decades, a plethora of “machine gun ranges” have popped up around the country. These facilities offer people the opportunity to work off some aggression shooting full-auto guns, often at targets with human faces. Gleeful shouts akin to “kill him!” can be heard from shooters and their friends. So for a mere $50, people are reinforcing the perception that machine guns are used for killing people. This doesn’t happen on my property so it’s none of my business. I simply ask you to consider what’s being “said” here.
Being one of the first viable commercial luxury entertainment shooting firms in the world, we’ve directed and projected our attitude in a different direction. Our generalized demographics are high net worth individuals, families and corporate groups from urban centers. A large percentage of our clients are aligned with a political party that has a reputation for NOT being terribly “gun-friendly.” Most have never fired a gun and had always previously thought of guns as instruments of death.
When an international media corporation sends its top advisors and board members to enjoy our shooting activities, it’s critical that we don’t portray shooting enthusiasts as camouflage-wearing Bubbas who want to kill those cute deer, chipmunks, kindly ATF agents and speed limit signs. We agree with the NRA Training Department’s philosophy of referring to firearms by names other than “weapon” when teaching basic shooting instruction. And when encouraging a shooter to hit a target, we tell them to get “it” rather than “him.”
A couple of years ago I was visited by three Orthodox Jewish school teachers from the Bronx, NY. They shared with me that they had previously gone out of their way to sign anti-gun petitions. But they were in the area where I was teaching and decided to try it out for themselves.
They had an absolute blast, of course, and while shooting, one of them asked if I had any assault rifles. I picked up a glove, lightly slapped her arm and responded, “No, I don’t. All of my rifles — including the AR-15 and the AK-47 — are sporting rifles that have never assaulted anyone. And in my hands they will NEVER initiate violence. I do however have an assault glove, because it just hit you with it.”
We had a good laugh, and they left with information to contemplate about firearms ownership and their use. Several weeks later I received a card from them, and it included a drawing of a glove with a red circle and hash mark through it with the caption, “Ban Assault Gloves.” They had voiced their changed opinions about guns.
My assault glove story isn’t typical of how I interact with clients, but it demonstrates that at times I DO engage in friendly conversations about gun ownership issues. More frequently, I say nothing at all.
Clients anticipate a speech about guns being good, about having to pry them from my cold dead hands, about how many Messicans are crossing the border and killing little blond-haired children and about me needin’ to shoot them folk if they step foot on my property. Lots of clients comment as they leave about how they expected to be preached to about gun rights, and how pleasantly surprised they were when it didn’t happen.
So, what I’m suggesting is that perhaps while having a good time shooting targets with fun sporting guns, talking about the beautiful mountains & sky, about our shared appreciation for dogs, about the fun plinking sound a bullet makes when it hits a metal target and about how much fun we’re having, a lot more is being said than what actually comes out of our mouths.
There’s a time for ranting and raving and preaching to the choir our passion for keeping our guns. But maybe being less verbose also helps make guns more acceptable in the public eye. I suggest that we all invite an anti-gun friend to shoot 22’s with us and never mention anything political…just have fun. If they start the conversation, we might be wise to just skirt it. See what happens. Trust me.
Shepard Humphries is an NRA Appointed Training Counselor, former police sniper team leader, competitive pistol & rifle shooter and principal at Jackson Hole Shooting Experience in Jackson, Wyoming.