Tucked away from the furious bustle of Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) crowds, the NRA’s Education and Training division dedicated individual time to those who stopped by this year’s booth to “shoot” a firearm for the first time.
NRA National Coach Trainer Daniel Subia and Co-Op Program Coordinator Claudia Olsen had a "Laser Shot" simulator at the NRA's Education and training booth, where folks could try shooting several different simulated firearms.
“In this demographic we have a lot of people that support the Second Amendment but probably have not been exposed to shooting handguns before, so they come to our booth and get pretty excited to shoot for the first time, even though it’s a laser simulator,” said Subia. In addition to just pulling the trigger, Subia and Olsen take the time to teach each new shooter how to hold the firearm properly, sight it and shoot it while respecting the rules of safe firearm handling. “They often come away with the excitement of saying, ‘Wow I actually got to shoot a gun my first time’ and they’re pretty exhilarated when they leave,” he said.
The demographic Subia and Olsen hope to reach is one of a like-minded group of people who love freedom and support the Second Amendment, but may not have been exposed to firearms before. “Sometimes they don’t get to the grassroots of getting to handle firearms, but they do support our cause,” Subia explained. The group they focus on usually sits between 18 to 35 years old.
Olsen explained, “We reach an age demographic here that we kind of miss, the ones that weren’t exposed to it as youth. Youth Programs covers kids from five to 18. As they get older, there’s a time frame from when they start college to when they have disposable incomes, that’s a demographic that’s hard to reach.” As this demographic gets older and heads toward marriage and children, according to Olsen, if they haven’t been exposed to firearms, they may no longer have the time or money to go to gun clubs and get invested in shooting. “By having them at this age group, their minds are open and they see the value in it more and are more likely to come back to it once they are in the working world," she added.
Between participants, Subia explained the demographic as a “lost” group. “We didn’t capture them when they were youth, and we won’t see them come back around till they’re 35, 40 years old. Maybe when they start a family they’re more interested in not just defending themselves but they have to take on the responsibility of protecting a spouse or family so they start looking into collecting firearms for self-protection.”
The two have attended several CPACs over the last few years, often seeing college-age kids and adults as well. CPAC is an event that sees a high level of energy. Olsen believes it has gotten higher over the years, as she has seen the exhilaration of the crowds increase steadily. Of her experiences, Olsen’s favorite part of the convention is, “…being able to reach out to someone that maybe has not had the experience, to be able to teach them something, and to be able to give them the joy I feel when I do my sport.”
Though the election may be over, Olsen believes the battle will keep going and staying vigilant to train people proper safety and handling should never be forgotten. “Firearms are out there and we want everybody that comes in contact to know how to use them safely. It’s a phenomenal sport. We hope the tradition carries on. We have to build it at the ground and grassroots level, and instill it in young people now so when they come back in 10 years when they’re older—and we might not be so lucky and have a different presidency—they they’ll still uphold our rights.”