With an estimated 223-million firearms in the United States in the hands of approximately 80-million gun owners, we are one of the most heavily armed countries on earth. An often-touted quote that may or may not have come from Japanese Grand Admiral Yamamoto is :
"You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass."
While the quote may or not be from the admiral, US citizens in 1941 typified this comment. However, the past several generations have experienced a training gap, and this needs to be corrected.
Decline in Training
Over the past 70 years, there has been a steady decline in firearms training opportunities across the country.
Let us look at 1941, the period in Yamamoto quote. The United States was not at war, but it certainly validated the good Admiral's quote. Many local schools had rifle and shotgun teams alongside football and baseball. Community Turkey Shoots were commonplace. More than 400 private high-school aged military academies dotted the country. It was commonplace and acceptable for kids to be given firearms as Christmas presents as early as age 7 and taught to use them. Sears would mail order you a firearm right to your doorstep and every neighborhood hardware store sold them over the counter.
- Cadets of the Gulf Coast Military Academy circa 1931, all boys aged 9-17. Back then belt-fed and water-cooled was ok. Today you cant have BB guns on campus.
Civic groups such as the Boy Scouts, 4H, and the YMCA supervised shooting events in every small town. Each summer as many as 40,000 young men volunteered for and attended Citizens' Military Training Camps, paid for by the War Department, where they learned among other things, marksmanship. Odds are, in 1941 most young men and several young women knew how to operate a firearm, and had been trained and supervised in doing it.
Now let's look at 2012. Many parents today, having no firearms culture of their own, would never dare give a gift of one to their children. Some states have made it illegal for youth under 16 to even purchase a BB gun. The Boy Scouts and 4H still offer marksmanship training, but a lack of certified instructors willing to donate their time has limited their once huge and popular programs.
Most of those 400 high school military academies have long ago closed. High school JROTC classes over the years have replaced mandatory training with .22 rifles for voluntary training with air guns. In San Diego, out of 2000 cadets in local JROTC programs, only 81 students participated in the training. In 2009, the local school board shut down even that small program, citing it as a violation of the zero tolerance policy for weapons on campus. Seems even the humble air gun is evil these days.
Today's kids that don't shoot will become tomorrow's adults that won't shoot.
Many of the 48 states that allow CCW carry have mandated minimum training requirements to be able to protect yourself. These are usually 8-16 hours of basic firearms safety and overview of the state laws on firearms. Some states, such as Alaska, Vermont, Washington, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota do not have such requirements. Too often, CCW carriers and open-carry advocates only acquire the minimum skills required. This is a bad idea.
There are firearm owners who trust their home defense to a weapon sitting in drawer or hidden on a closet shelf that they have hardly fired, much less actually trained with. This is a worse idea. In a high threat situation, you will sink to the level of your worst training. If even your worst training is non-existent, what can you expect?
What are you going to say after a shooting you are involved with when an attorney for the bad guy asks if you had any training for the firearm you used?
Get some training, it is just that simple.
The NRA holds thousands of classes per year for everything muzzle loaders to AR15s. These classes are literally just a few clicks away . Even if you just take Basic level classes, any training is better than none at all. The foundation of any skill is in the basics.
Moving to the next level are specialized high-speed classes offered by such places like Gunsite, the SIG-Academy, and others. Hone these skills by practicing at a safe range at least 4 times a year; WITH the firearm, you are trusting for defense.
Finally, reach out to the children in your life and community and share the wonderful hobby and skill of the shooting sports. There are many family friendly events such as CMP and Appleseed shoots that you can both attend and volunteer at.
Yamamoto may have been right in 1941; it is up to us to make sure it will be the same in 2041.