Organizations and associations generally rely on a body of members to exist, so it stands to reason that without the recruitment of new members, an organization may cease to exist. The National Rifle Association is no exception. We, as NRA members, firearms instructors and Second Amendment advocates, must consistently and actively seek and recruit new members to join the NRA. Everyone is welcome!
Admittedly, it can be a greater challenge to attract younger individuals to join the NRA, but it is not impossible. Unfortunately, school educators, social media and peer pressure play a part in attempting to sway young people with anti-gun bias. But younger generations are the future of the NRA. They are the ones who will defend or defeat our Second Amendment constitutional rights. Therefore, it is imperative that we counter those attempts, and focus on early recruitment efforts. I have found one of the easiest gateways toward membership is to introduce them to the shooting sports.
Many times, all it takes to recruit a young person to shooting is to simply take them shooting! This can be a formal or informal opportunity; just take them shooting! Firearm instructors can do this by seeking out young individuals who are interested in learning the basics of firearms, and inviting them to the class at no charge or a highly discounted rate. Of course, this will require the parents’ or guardian’s permission or, better yet, invite them to join you as well.
NRA Apprentice and Assistance Programs
The NRA has an Apprentice and Assistant Instructor certification program for young firearm enthusiasts who wish to share their passion and knowledge and help teach others. Apprentice instructors can be certified between the ages of 13 to 17 years old. Assistant instructors can be certified between the ages of 18 to 21. If you are currently an NRA Certified Instructor, seek out teenagers whom you believe would benefit from growing in their own shooting abilities, but also those who have the ability to recruit other likeminded young people into the shooting sports. You never know how you may benefit a young person by introducing them to the shooting sports and helping them gain these certifications. If you are not a Certified Instructor, encourage young shooters to pursue these programs and trainings.
For example, I met a 14-year-old young man who wanted to learn more about firearms and become more proficient in his shooting abilities. With his mother’s permission, I began working with him. I encouraged him to join a local shooting club, which required all participants be an NRA member. I then put him through the NRA’s firearm training program, and he became a Certified Apprentice instructor in all shooting disciplines: rifle, pistol and shotgun. Two years later I received the following email from this young man:
From: Ryan R.
To: Heidi Rao
Sent: Monday, August 8, 2022
Subject: Success story from NRA Pistol training
I wanted to thank you for the opportunities that have opened up to me since I have taken your classes and became an NRA Apprentice Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun Instructor! I’ve improved drastically in my shooting skills, and I’ve built amazing safety habits from just taking the basic firearms courses that the NRA offers. I’ve also gained so many skills through the NRA that I will carry with me for a lifetime, like discipline, peer encouragement, and attentiveness. As you know I am a member of a 100 percent NRA youth group and that allowed me the opportunity to shadow the firearms examiners at the NRA convention in Houston, and watched everything that they do in order to make the convention floor safe. It was amazing being able to watch the examiners check these firearms, every single firearm on the floor! It was such an amazing experience and opportunity. Thank you for everything!
Every now and then, you get a different type of request for a class. I was contacted by a “Skipper” of a Sea Scout Ship. He wanted an NRA Instructor to conduct the shooting course so that the Sea Scouts in his Ship could earn their “Sea Scout Shooting Sports Medal.” Since I was not aware of this program, I had to do some research so I could meet his request. All that was required was an NRA Instructor to administer the requirements and the shooting course qualification and, of course, I agreed.
It turned out to be one of the most memorable courses I have ever taught. It also turned out to be a course that impacted a young person’s life in the best possible way! I first received this email from the young man that was in the class:
From: Ryan S.
To: Heidi Rao
Sent: Thursday, April 4, 2019
Subject: Success story from NRA Pistol training
Please find attached my Certificate. Thank you very much for teaching the class. It was an awesome experience and it has reinvigorated my interest in shooting sports.
I took the class to test and verify my skills as a marksman in scouting and in my personal endeavors. I also took the class to more formally educate myself about proper use, care, and purchase of different handguns. I did not realize what a large variety of firearms activities there are and what a large group of people participated in so many different ways.
To me, the second amendment represents our right to protect ourselves and the spirit of independence, cooperation, and responsibility Americans enjoy.
Boatswain, Ship 45 "Kraken"
US Power Squadron, JN
Needless to say, I was very proud of this young man. It was so nice to receive feedback from one of my young students who was positively impacted by NRA firearms training. It was very good to see the benefits of the NRA firsthand, and the benefits that come from its training. Within a few months after Ryan’s email, I received another message. This one was from his father:
From: Robin S.
To: Heidi Rao
Heidi & John,
I want to thank you and John!
Ryan is at the United States Naval Academy. During Plebe Summer they are taken to the weapons range (Yup ... weapons, it's not the NRA basic firearm training class!) and qualify on pistols and rifles.
Ryan was one of only 9 out of 1,198 that shot Double Expert!
I credit the Sea Scout/NRA shooting sports for helping him earn that distinction!
WOW! It really hit me—the real impact of NRA training! It is not just about breaking more clays. It is not about becoming a better marksman. It is not so we can fill our game bags more often. Well, yes, it is all those things, but the real benefit of NRA training is why the NRA was established in 1871.
While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the NRA has, since its inception, been the world’s premier firearms education organization.
The NRA was established 1871 after the Civil War, as our leaders were reflecting on why a professional, well-trained, and well-supplied military took four years to end hostilities. What they learned was that the Confederate soldiers were better marksmen than the Union soldiers. This was because by the time the Civil War reached the northern region of our country, it was urban and industrial, while our southern region remained agricultural. As a result, many of the Union soldiers lived in the urban areas where firearms were not part of daily life. At the same time, the southern soldiers still relied on firearms for their way of life. Southern soldiers grew up using firearms for hunting and protection.
The NRA's interest in promoting the shooting sports among America's youth continued into the early 1900s when NRA Secretary Albert S. Jones urged the establishment of rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities and military academies. By 1906, NRA's youth program was in full swing with more than 200 boys competing in matches that summer. Today, youth programs are still a cornerstone of the NRA, with more than one million youth participating in NRA shooting sports events and affiliated programs with groups such as 4-H, the Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion, Royal Rangers, National High School Rodeo Association, and others.
The NRA was formed to train young Americans in the safe and proficient use of firearm to defend United States of America and our Constitution. This is what we should never forget—NRA was developed to improve the marksmanship of our young sons and daughters for our defense.
Every NRA Instructor should reflect on this and try to carry on this tradition. Look at your classes and see if you are doing enough to reach younger Americans. Every firearm owner and recreational shooter should also do their best to reach out to young people to educate them on the history of the NRA and importance of protecting and defending our Second Amendment rights. The youth we reach out to might be our future soldiers or police officers. This next generation we reach might become our future lawmakers who will ensure that our Second Amendment is protected!