Despite the anti-gun rhetoric you've been hearing from some televised children lately, there is another unheralded story of kids who have no fear of guns.
Note: Post was originally published in 2018.
Recent weeks have seen the media promoting a decidedly anti-gun point of view, with children acting as messengers. These kids have targeted the NRA and gun owners as being complicit in the recent deaths of students at the hands of a mass shooter.
It's a corrupt narrative that justifiably has gun owners and constitutional advocates feeling unduly persecuted.
Judging by the media coverage one would think that their anti-gun narrative is the pervasive attitude among school children. It's not. There is another side to the narrative, a side that has many kids embracing firearms and the shooting sports.
Rather than being fearful of guns, many kids see firearms for what they are: tools used to perform certain tasks and, in this case, sporting equipment not unlike a javelin in track and field or a bat in baseball.
A dramatically different photographic narrative
Sharif Hamza is a photographer who recently explored the culture of kids and guns. His photographs show youngsters of various ages proudly holding their firearms.
Hamza admits that some urbanites may find the images of children embracing firearms disturbing. It's an understandable attitude, given the political left's success in demonizing firearms.
But in small town America, Hamza says that "shooting felt as common as skateboarding." He found that rather than fearing guns, many kids were drawn to the shooting sports. They were attracted to the level playing field of competition shooting--sports where size or gender mean very little in how successful one can become.
He was also struck by how conscious the young people were of safe gun handling. They were, he maintains, always alert and disciplined in their handling of firearms. "It's drilled into the kids' heads--respect and responsibility," he said.
These kids are trustworthy and mature around firearms. That's a far cry from the portrait of gun owners that gun control proponents try to present, where shooting accidents are common and the mere presence of a gun implies recklessness and death.
Listen to Hamza talk about his own change of attitude as he photographed and spoke with these young shooters and their parents:
"The side that are pro-gun control often only talk to each other, and have likely never met a gun owner. said Hamza. "And that's certainly who I was before I set about this project."
"The real eye-opener was that it's all very mainstream."
Hamza also recognizes that guns are an integral part of what makes America the country it is. "It's part of the fabric of American life," he says.
"I strongly believe that American gun owners are never going to give up their guns. It's just not possible."
He appears to have developed a level of respect and understanding for gun owners that is missing in much of today's inflammatory rhetoric.
"In this project I have photographs of 250 young Americans who will be the responsible gun owners of the future."
As gun owners often say, knowledge is the key to understanding. It happened with Hamza - someone who was previously largely ignorant of American gun culture. His example shows that we have a lot of work to do in educating the non-gun owning public.
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Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.