The slander of the NRA bothers me greatly for a number of reasons. The biggest is the false motives assigned to them. The summer camp I attended had NRA certified instructors man the rifle range. As a boy I loved guns and all things explosive. But from them and other NRA friends I learned more than that.
First and foremost I learned responsibility. This started with the golden rule of marksmanship: Treat every gun as if it’s loaded. This was about not only your safety but the safety of others. It also carried into you’re responsible for what happens when you pull the trigger.
Second, I learned the value of life. One, the value of my own and being aware of what I was doing. Second those around me in conducting myself in such a way that does not put them in danger. Third, care for animals should I choose to hunt. What stood out was the discussion of tracking an animal if you don’t drop it so it does not suffer. Guns were not the Holly Wood Rambo fantasies we have, but a supreme respect for life in all forms.
Third, I learned to respect process. At the range it was about safety, but in other areas of life it became about not forgetting what is important. The purpose of having a process in place is to make sure important things don’t get missed or easily avoidable trouble does not happen. This lesson played out in other areas of my life.
Fourth, excellence matters. It matters in how we aim. It matters in how we operate the weapon. It matters how we care for things. When we stop seeking excellence negative consequences can happen. This moves beyond responsibility to proficiency. Can you be counted on to do the job right and help others. This relates to work ethic and charter. Bulls eyes are not the only place where we need to show excellence.
Fifth, the solemnity of freedom. Freedom comes with a price. While guns are fun to shoot, there is a solemnity to them. This goes beyond my camp instructors to other NRA members I’ve interacted with. Truly, it’s not about the gun. If anything, it is about cherishing that which is most important., the people we love, our neighbors, and our community. A phrase I heard and hear often is “God forbid if you ever have to shoot in defense.” Evil and tyranny are very real and present dangers that each generation must contend with.
What I learned from my NRA friends and instructors was more than just about a gun. Do they love guns, sure. But I learned more about respect for life, liberty and property from them than anything else except the Bible. These were men who deeply loved their families and their country. They were and are honorable men of whom we could use more not less of.