Surprise, surprise! Shooting is actually a popular activity.

By Dean Rieck

An enduring myth of the anti-gun left is that the shooting sports are not really all that popular. They think the only people who are interested in shooting are criminals and the deranged. They assume the “gun guys” are some tiny group of oddballs out of touch with mainstream America.

Well, guess what? They’re wrong. Shooting is popular. VERY popular. In fact, shooting has always been and remains one of the most popular activities of all time. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has waited for an hour or more to get into a shooting range or who has ever been to a shooting competition where hundreds of men, women, and children show up. But it may come as a real shocker to the anti-gun crowd.

Just how popular is shooting? Let’s look at the 2005 “Superstudy of Sports Participation,” a publication of the Sporting Good Manufacturers Association. This wide-ranging survey asks Americans about their sporting activity and includes both men and women from the age of six and up. If you engage in any given activity at least one time per year, you are counted as a participant in that activity.

According to the study, 15,196,000 people went hunting with a gun in 2005. That’s more people than played baseball (9,694,000). That’s right. Hunting is more popular than America’s so-called “favorite pastime.”

Even more people went target shooting, a total of 18,037,000. So target shooting is more popular than playing football (16,436,000). Who would have thunk it? There are more plinkers on the range than players on the field.

But let’s look at the big picture. Add up Hunting (15,196,000), Target Shooting (18,037,000), Sport Clays (3,222,000), and Trap/Skeet (4,059,000) and you have a total of 40,514,000 shooters. That’s right…over 40 million shooters! That’s nearly 14 percent of the entire U.S. population.

That makes shooting more popular than basketball or golf or tennis. And if you add Archery (6,756,000), Bow Hunting (3,661,000), and Paintball (9,640,000), you end up with a grand total of 60,571,000, which means shooting sports are more popular than baseball, football, and basketball combined.

So why the disconnect? How can anyone think shooting is not popular when so many people are involved in shooting sports? I think the answer is simple. Just a few short decades ago, guns and the shooting sports were an accepted part of society. Cowboys with white hats carried guns. Kids took their rifles to school for shooting practice. And the media was staffed by ordinary people.

But in the 1960s, things changed. More liberals entered the media who had no connection with hunting or shooting. The movies started depicting guns as instruments of the bad guys. And some social reformers started targeting guns as the cause of society’s ills. So a split grew between ordinary people who liked to shoot and the media and liberals who thought guns were bad and began portraying them that way.

And that’s where we are today. Shooting is phenomenally popular but some people just don’t realize it. Even many shooters don’t know how popular shooting is. And they may have a tendency to keep their hobby to themselves, for fear of shocking their neighbors and friends.

So how do we get back to the good old days when shooting was acceptable and regarded as a healthy pastime? Talk about shooting with your neighbors. Take someone to the range. Introduce your kids to hunting. Support gun rights reform and gun lobbying organizations whenever you can.

The fact is, shooting is overwhelmingly popular—always has been, always will be. It’s the anti-gun crowd who are the tiny group of oddballs.

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