The National Rifle Association has as one of it foremost goals the protection of firearm-related rights. In this respect, it is the leader when it comes to programs related to gun safety, wildlife conservation, women’s and junior programs, philanthropy and education (not just gun related either). Programs such as Eddie Eagle (aimed for youngsters) and women’s firearm clinics are well known. Another program, a remarkable one that I was thrilled to attend, is the Youth Education Summit ( Y.E.S.). Designed to educate the youth of today to be better prepared for tomorrow on topics such as the workings of government, legislature and the Second Amendment, as well as history, Y.E.S. is an all-expense paid, week-long experience in Washington, D.C., for 46 high school sophomores and juniors. I will be forever grateful to the NRA, the Friends of National Rifle Association (FNRA) and those who wrote letters on my behalf so that I could attend.
With action-packed days full of variety – from tours of museums and the Marine Corps Base at Quantico to shooting on the NRA range (a major highlight, personally) and visiting memorials, it was clearly a week of lasting memories, like-minded friends and valuable lessons. The students that attended the summit were also fortunate to be in D.C. during a very historical time, which only added to the impact.
During that week in D.C., shooting sports gained a new depth for me, an awareness that there was more, beyond moving tombstone targets and loading magazines and moonclips. I had known of battles regarding the Second Amendment, like my Mock Trial experience, but it’s entirely different to be standing at the epicenter of power and authority. Sitting at Capitol Hill and listening to Congressmen, the importance and reality of problems our country is currently facing and will be facing becomes more evident. As the focus of the trip was clearly the Second Amendment, I was able to take something back home to the range, and not just bragging rights for shooting fully automatic “grease-gun” in the NRA Headquarters’ range in D.C., but that by doing something I love, I’m making a statement. I shoot guns safely for competition – pro-Second Amendment. I write about shooting guns safely for competition – pro-First Amendment. I brought back further respect for the Constitution (which I now have a copy of hanging on my bedroom wall, right next to the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights) and a renewed desire to make sure that for as long as possible, citizens of the United States would be taught gun safety, have competence with firearms, and be permitted to exercise their rights in such conditions.
A fun note, while at the NRA Headquarters we were able to tour their Firearms Museum after listening to fantastic speakers, including the vice president of the NRA, Mr. Wayne LaPierre! During our visit to the museum, we saw history of firearms, and some absolutely incredible guns! Guns shot by President Roosevelt, automotive-publisher Robert E. Peterson and even Annie Oakley. And later, after extensive lessons and tests on gun safety, we were able to shoot on the NRA range! Though not the historical guns on display, it was very neat to shoot M3 Submachine gun. OK, maybe a little cooler than “very neat,” but you can imagine!
With the amazing adventures of 46 incredible, intelligent teenagers from across the country, there was need for funding for this experience of a lifetime. That funding came from the Friends of the NRA branch. I’m incredibly thankful that there are programs out there to help raise the future generation to be capable individuals. The group of students picked was remarkable; we were all so different, but similar in the right ways. Hard working, determined, NRA supporting, teenagers. It was the variety which made the team-building atmosphere extra interesting – not all of the participants were public speakers. Not all of the participants were politically aligned as Republican or Conservative either. Yet, this group was instantly compatible, helping to build one another up, challenge each other and work hard to get the most out of an already amazing experience. We had one ultimate, common goal. We wanted to better our communities, our country, and even the world.
With the Constitutional talk earlier, I must add that we were in Washington, D.C., at the perfect time. When the Supreme Court ruled to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt and then on the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ObamaCare), we were just steps away. Decisions like the ones made by the Supreme Court are not easy, but absolutely monumental and have a huge effect on the direction the country will take. It was a historical day, whether one agrees with either ruling, and I was awestruck by the idea that I was around when it happened. And maybe one day, I’ll be in a position to weigh in my own ideas on issues in the country.
And if that happens, I’ll know it was my week in Washington, D.C., that set in my heart that I want to be part of something larger than myself.