Collectively, as an industry, there are some things we do where we just cannot suck enough.
I mean it. We just suck at doing some things and there seems to be little interest in taking the steps needed to change this.
On the political front, we play great defense. And when we get to the deep inside baseball of politics, we have great offense. We go after those that go after us by driving our people to the polls.
If there is one thing we know it's how to turn out our vote.
However, every time we face a major rights crisis kicked off by some senseless act of violence we lose just a little more ground. While in this last battle we held our ground on Capitol Hill, we lost the western front in Colorado. We suffered further losses in New York, Maryland and Connecticut.
And there are more state level attacks coming.
We are one shooting incident away from another full on effort by the media to surrender away our second amendment rights - easily done since they have no use for them. Fortunately for the time being their attention is focused on the administration's efforts to pry into their news sources.
Part of me wants to encourage the government's eroding away of the first amendment rights of the press just to see how they like it. I mean, hey, I don't have any "sources" I need to protect so what's it matter to me if the government coerces the media into giving up theirs?
Of course, gun owners have always had a much broader interpretation of individual rights than the patrician elitists of the mainstream media. We tend to respect the protection of those rights since it always seems somebody it trying to give them away.
But in between those attacks on us, in between our wins, what the hell are we doing? A whole lot of nothing.
Sure, we're running some larger efforts like The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program and Project ChildSafe, which are both good programs, don't get me wrong. But is that all?
Shouldn't we be working on a broader effort to expand shooting as a mainstream - and therefore widely accepted - activity?
Let me help you, the answer is an emphatic 'Yes!'
After we won our major court and legislative victories on the 'let's sue gunmakers for the actions of criminals' front, we should have turned on a dime and gotten serious about our pro-shooting communications.
A survey conducted on behalf of NSSF back before the attacks on September 11 showed that interest in shooting among those that never have was strong, and downright huge among younger age groups.
That was before 9/11, so what do you think people thought about guns on September 12th? Exactly.
Instead of a top-down organized effort to get every company, retailer, range, club and organization pushing open the doors of the shooting world and inviting in those from the non-shooting world what did we do?
I'm not really sure what we did other than bask in the glow of our legal and legislative victories. All of a sudden we felt unbeatable, and a simple hard glare at our political enemies was all that was needed to warn them off. And we were content with that.
But when Newtown happened, that act tough strategy proved a lot weaker than we were counting on. Yes, we won in DC, but with public opinion swinging so heavily against us we lost in other areas and our enemies noticed.
With each attack they learn a little more about how to come at us, so the next time they'll be better prepared.
Instead of standing on top of the political heap, planting our flag and daring anybody to try and knock the king of the hill off, we should have been building our softer side. We should have been cultivating our outreach effort to women.
I know what you're going to say. The NRA put out that great video featuring top women shooters as part of their New Energy
campaign that helps relate the NRA's message to the key female demographic...and you're right.
Of course, it was about 10 years overdue and only really came into being after the disastrous post-Newtown press conference on putting armed guards in schools. Armed guards is great idea - just like putting armed guards on planes after the September 11th hijackings - but outside of our own already-in-our-court community it didn't play too well.
'Tone deaf' was probably the most common observation of the NRA's presentation. And they're probably right, the message delivery on that one fell flat among those not inclined to join the NRA.
That's probably because reaching women is what our industry really, really sucks at. Overlooking the amazingly condescending 'let's make it in pink' approach to product development, the cornerstone of our capture the women's market effort, what exactly do we do to reach women?
Nothing really, well nothing at the level of commitment, support and funding needed to make a significant impact.
Hell, we can barely treat female competitive shooters as equals. Only Cowboy Action Shooting has the right angle on this which helps explain why they have the highest percentage of female participants.
Of course, you'd never know that because using a telegraph to get a press release out is way too difficult, so the Single Action Shooting Society mostly opts to avoid spreading the news.
Everywhere else in the shooting sports women's accomplishments are regarded as little more than minor performances not really worthy of acclaim as a real victory, especially since they didn't win the entire match outright. (Read that as, 'didn't beat the guys.')
That kind of approach needs to stop...right...about...now.
A woman competes in your match and wins, you had better treat her like a champion, in her own right, and not qualify her win by pointing out the men she didn't outshoot or how weak the competition for the ladies title was. It's not her fault the top 25 women in the country didn't show up to compete. She did, so she deserves the trophy and the recognition.
Recognition tells the female shooter you value their accomplishment. In the work I do I've made the effort to promote women shooters, and while many will tell you I have done a good - even great - job at it, in the grand scheme of things my work in this area has sucked too...just not as much as that of others.
If we want to win over more women to the shooting sports, whether organized competition or casual recreational shooting, we need to tell those women interested in shooting that the doors are wide open and we could not be more thrilled to see them in our stores, on our ranges and in our matches.
Their participation is welcomed, it's appreciated and it's valued.
That's the hymn the entire choir needs to be singing, and not just to each other.
...Next week I'll give you a list of things I think the industry should do to reach women.
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network
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