Youth shooting clinics trigger political cross-fire
August 21, 1999
By Correspondent Frank Buckley
HIGHLAND LAKES, New Jersey (CNN) -- Should children be taught how to use guns? A junior shooting clinic in New Jersey offers a new twist on the debate over kids and guns.
Wearing baseball caps, thick glasses or ponytails, the children, ranging in age from 10 to 18, express youthful glee when they burst off a few rounds from their high-powered rifles.
"It was really cool," says Jacob Fulmer, 11, firing an AR-15, the civilian version of the military M-16.
"It felt good!" says 10-year-old Talisa Pino, shooting for the first time.
Gun instructors provide guidance and coaching. Parents provide permission. Talisa's father didn't hesitate.
"The more she knows, the better it is for her," he said.
Aiming for safety
Organizers and parents say the instruction offers the best way to teach children about gun safety.
"Half of what we do, if not three quarters of what we do, is dealing with safety and proper handling of firearms," says Harry Jacobs of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, which coordinated the event.
Some gun control advocates say the training helps create a youth gun culture, which they say the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers promotes.
The critics say what the children really learn at youth gun events is how to advocate for the NRA, and how to become gun customers in the future.
"The gun industry has recognized that they've lost a generation and they're trying to create a youth gun culture," says Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center.
The Washington-based group produced the report "Start 'em Young," which claims the NRA and gun makers are actively recruiting youngsters through a variety of means.
"It ranges from advertisements in youth magazines to outreach programs targeting kids, even trying to bring in women who are single parents and eventually get their kids in what is part of becoming, in essence, a youth gun culture," Sugarmann says.
Gun enthusiasts says that the national heritage has always included guns. They say they are passing on the tradition safely, by teaching children how to shoot.
Clinton to parents: Talk to kids about violence
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