Keeping our Sport Alive
Keeping Our Sport Alive (1/12)
By: Frank Neumayer
I was at a social gathering the other evening when someone came up to me and said, “So, I hear you’re a shooter”? This person wasn’t a gun owner, hunter, or clay target shooter, and they admittedly knew very little about guns or shooting. Yet, the thought of shooting at moving clay targets with a shotgun intrigued them enough to ask me the question with sincerity. I certainly wasn’t going to pass-up an opportunity to explain why I love shooting, so I proceeded to explain why. Fortunately, I caught myself in time as a blank stare start drifting over his face. I stopped talking, hesitated for a second, and then with a smile I simply said… “I shoot because it’s a whole lot of fun”! Instantly, the blank stare was gone, he was back with interest, and wanting to hear even more about it all. Off we went on a pleasant 30-40 minute discussion over a cup of coffee. In the end, he left with my card in hand, and we made plans to get together soon out at the club, where I would introduce him and his son to the sport of clay target shooting. I realized from that encounter that there are probably a lot of interested people out there (without preconceived biases) that would really enjoy the fun and excitement of clay target shooting, if only they were properly introduced to the sport.
This encounter really got me to thinking! I realized that it’s “us” shooters that have the responsibility of educating and promoting clay target shooting to the public. There’s nobody better than us shooters to make certain that the public understands the truth about firearms and all the benefits that come from hunting and clay target shooting. We have to be a strong, positive presence to counter those voices that simply want guns and all of the shooting sports to simply disappear. It’s my belief that “Community Relations” needs to become a solid part of every gun club’s mission statement and goals and objectives. Clubs will certainly need to find just the right individuals to appoint or elected to lead this effort, and the Board of Directors should make up the standing committee. The purpose of this committee would be to enlighten and educate the public, the local community, with the truth about gun ownership, and their safe and proper use, as well as to promote and encourage community participation in all of the shooting activities offered at their club.
Most every gun club is required by code or ordinance to make available a certain number of hours per month to be open and accessible for public use. To some clubs this simply means being open for its members, and then the public is also welcome to drop by and participate if they want. This basic level of effort will maintain their non- profit 501-C3 status, but very little is done to promote membership growth, or to encourage greater public involvement, support, or participation. On the other hand, I know of clubs that… “Get it”. They realize they must become an important and integral part of the community in order to survive and grow. Gun clubs need to be proactive in their approach, coupled with a dedicated effort, to make certain that the public has a positive and value-added perception of what the club brings to the community. When a community doesn’t understand or realize any value, then a gun club’s continued existence will always be in question. There are a couple of important things that I think clubs need to do to reach-out and promote themselves within their communities.
First of all, a basic “Community Promotional Plan” needs to be developed. The plan should focus specifically on how to simply introduce your club to the community. The plan should outline what your club has to offer, and how those values and benefits can be properly shared with local businesses, schools, newspapers and publications, fire and police departments, recreational centers, community clubs and organizations, and even churches. The plan should address all aspects of promoting and communicating the benefits of your club to as many people in the community as possible. Maybe a tasteful poster, handout, or flyer could be designed for distribution? Possibly, some brief public speaking engagements could be arranged, accompanied with a 20 minute slide show on your club, its people, and its activities. I’m sure there’s a lot of great ideas out there, and with a little brain-storming among your members, the results can be numerous. Just remember, don’t go overboard. Keep your plan simple, direct, and manageable. The basic purpose or goal is to introduce your club to the community in the most positive, honest, friendly, and respectful manner possible.
Secondly, your club needs to organize and arrange specific activities that will draw the public to your club for participation. For many years, Black Diamond Gun Club has offered an annual, free to the public, “Easter Egg Hunt”. Hundreds of people show up, there’s no shooting involved, but the positive exposure to the community has produced many new club members. One thing several clubs are offering is a “New Shooters Night” where once a week basic instruction is offered; club-guns may be provided; and the cost for a few rounds of trap or skeet is either half-price or on the club. Along with these introductory activities, I know of many clubs that offer free shooting instruction or classes for novices, ladies, or youth shooters on a regular basis. Other fun things that can be organized such as community Pot Lucks; Game Nights; or Movie Nights… all wrapped around a few rounds of target shooting. The point is that you need to create whatever activities you can that will entice the public to come out and join in. From participation comes appreciation, and from there the fun and enjoyment of clay target shooting can only grow.
I truly believe that the full responsibility rests with us shooters to keep hunting, shooting, and the clay target sports alive and well in our towns and communities. We all know how strong the various factions are out there that oppose all firearms and everything related to shooting and hunting. Just remember, “The truth cannot be argued”, and that there are a lot of people in our neighborhoods and communities that remain fair and open to honest and positive information and dialog regarding gun ownership and the hunting and shooting sports. Based on my experience, when a gun clubs take action to reach-out, with respect and honesty, to enlighten, educate, and encourage community involvement and support… the positive feedback can be overwhelming. It’s really up to us shooters to make it happen!
© 2012 Claybrakn Shotgun Instruction. All Rights Reserved.