The recent mass shooting in Maine, carried out by an Army reservist who has access to guns despite undergoing psychiatric evaluations, reopens the discussion about implementing a standardized red-flag law to prevent such tragedies. However, resistance from the gun lobby often mutes these conversations, and calls for healing prevail until the next massacre surfaces. This recurring cycle raises concerns about a federal program that trains approximately 500,000 children, some as young as 8 years old, to shoot guns. The program is supported by over $1 million in funding from the gun manufacturing lobby. Debates have emerged regarding whether this program teaches responsible gun ownership or indoctrinates children, akin to hooking them on nicotine. One thing is clear: while politicians fail to address red flag laws, this well-funded program subtly instills a new generation with gun culture.
The program in question is part of the 4-H youth development organization, which is administered by land-grant universities under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although shooting sports are offered through 4-H programs in 47 states, California's program no longer accepts funding from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Moreover, California recently enacted a law that prohibits firearm industries from marketing their products in an appealing manner to minors. Despite these measures, the federal 4-H program continues to make shooting guns attractive to young children, thanks to its funding from the NRA and the gun lobby.
The National 4-H Shooting Sports Program receives more than $1 million in annual funding from the NRA Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, both staunch opponents of gun control efforts. These organizations played a role in establishing the federal "kids and guns" program, which teaches children about firearms.The NRA Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1990, actively supports various firearms-related activities led by the National Rifle Association (NRA). With a commitment to advancing shooting sports, the foundation has contributed more than $426 million in grants over the past two decades. Notably, their funding has provided significant support to 4-H groups, enabling children as young as 9 years old to participate in shooting programs. These programs prioritize the teaching of essential skills including responsibility, self-discipline, teamwork, firearm safety, and marksmanship. However, it's worth mentioning that age restrictions vary among local 4-H clubs.
The NRA Foundation's funding has sparked controversy, as opinions are divided on its potential promotion of a violent gun culture. Proponents, however, argue that shooting sports can foster positive outcomes for children, going beyond mere marksmanship. While shooting accidents during 4-H events are rare occurrences, they unfortunately do happen. This fact is exemplified by a previous incident where a camper fell victim to an accidental shooting, yet miraculously survived. Nevertheless, certain 4-H programs in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have successfully demonstrated that youth development can be achieved without the need for NRA funding or involving firearms altogether.Guidelines for safety at a 4-H shooting camp in Tennessee are currently emphasizing the potential for a camper's death. Staff and volunteers are being directed on how to handle situations where parents come to the camp seeking information about their child's death. Furthermore, the guidelines emphasize that any serious injury or death would have a significant impact on the camp and its future.
To protect both themselves and the National Rifle Association (NRA), 4-H programs have implemented a series of measures to ensure indemnification in the event of a child being shot. An example of this procedure took place at the Airfield 4-H Educational Center in Virginia. There, parents were required to sign a liability release form that absolved the camp, NRA, and volunteers from any responsibility in the event of unforeseen accidents.
The alliance between 4-H and the NRA traces its origins back to the 1970s when 4-H introduced its shooting sports program. The NRA played a pivotal role in expanding the program, eventually leading to the establishment of the 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation. This foundation, which receives significant funding from the NRA, gun manufacturers, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, has made the 4-H shooting sports program one of the largest youth shooting sports programs in the country.The National Rifle Association (NRA) maintains a significant role in supporting 4-H Shooting Sports, as highlighted by a recent statement. The author emphasizes that the NRA serves as the primary financial contributor to this program, with expectations of continued collaboration in the future. Over $2 million has been provided by the NRA Foundation to bolster 4-H's educational initiatives, surpassing the contributions of any other organization in the form of monetary aid directed towards local 4-H groups. Drawing attention to industry experts' involvement, various individuals from the firearms industry actively serve on the National 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation’s board.
Underlining the deep-rooted bond between the NRA and 4-H, the chairman of the foundation's board commemorated their unwavering support by presenting them with an esteemed award at an NRA meeting held in 2005. This enduring partnership between the two entities has served to enroll an impressive number of participants in the 4-H shooting programs. Presently, more than 300,000 youths and over 40,000 instructors are engaged in these initiatives. Crucially, this partnership's extensive reach is showcased by the fact that there are now 500,000 youths across the nation partaking in diverse shooting programs.