When it comes to the shooting sports and outdoor pursuits, many parents are concerned about what organizations foster the best environment for their daughters to learn about gun safety and shooting. There are many from which to choose, like American Heritage Girls or Frontier Girls, but the most famous girls-only organization is undoubtedly Girl Scouts of America (GSUSA). As a former Girl Scout, I decided to look into the current status of my former scouting organization. What I've found about GSUSA is that you get out of it what you put in, and the parents and troop leaders in charge play a crucial role.
When I was a Scout, my troops were led by mothers who thought that camping was putting us in sleeping bags in the living room. When I later attended Girl Scout camp, I learned how to put up a tent, start a fire and some other elementary camping skills; however, if you placed me in the woods and told me to find my way out-or heaven forbid, left me overnight-I would be useless. I have very fond memories of my time at camp, but I do wish that I had walked away from the experience with better outdoor skills...and, to my memory, shooting was not a part of the program.
If one peruses the GSUSA badge explorer to compare the badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America (BSUSA), the reader will note "How to be a Babysitter," "Have a Dinner Party" and "Eat for Beauty." In contrast, BSUSA's badges include rifle shooting, shotgun shooting, outdoorsman, map and compass, wildlife conservation, archery, emergency preparedness, fish and wildlife management, soil and water conservation, wilderness survival, snow camping and shooting sports. If we are to mold young girls to be strong leaders of tomorrow, then it's safe to say that they deserve to be on the same playing field as the boys; and that means familiarizing them with firearms in a safe, friendly environment and helping them to become self-sufficient outdoorswomen. Troublingly, one can also find GSUSA worksheets claiming that "owning a gun" is an example of something unhealthy.
However, it all comes down to the troop leaders and the girls. According to Greenwichtime.com, two dozen high-school-age girls visited the Cos Cob Revolver and Rifle club for some rifle shooting because the girls pushed for it. A Western Pennsylvania GSUSA camp offers a program that includes rifle shooting. Another girl and her troop were actively involved in the renovation of a Michigan shooting range.
If you're a GSUSA leader looking to get your girls into the shooting sports, make sure to consult the rule book for proper procedure and safety purposes. Or better yet, send your troop to a summer camp that offers a rifle shooting program. One such professional, Jill Hetler, PharmD, runs the rifle program at Kamp Konocti in Northern California along with her husband Bryce Hetler, DDS, and Santa Rosa Police Officer Chris Diaz. According to the GSUSA of Northern California, girls over the age of 12 are allowed to shoot under certain circumstances. To meet the council's requirements, both Hetlers are certified NRA instructors. According to Jill, the girls love the program and it continues to fill up each summer. Other shooting programs have not been successful in getting approval, but the national GSUSA committee leaves the decisions up to the individual committees.
Thanks to parents like Jill and Bryce, who tirelessly worked to ensure that their girls would have the opportunity to enjoy the shooting sports-just like the boys-the program is a great success. In order to get more girls actively involved in the shooting sports and other more serious outdoor pursuits, it is up to the parents and leaders of individual troops to make it happen.
More and more women are participating in the shooting sports and purchasing their first firearm. If you're looking to become a certified NRA Instructor, visit NRAInstructors.org. And if your girls might be interested in the shooting sports, or you have any questions, check out Compete.NRA.org for more information.