Anyone familiar with the past 2016 Olympic Games learned about Michael Phelps’ amazing swimming record feats and Ryan Lochte’s issues with the Brazilian police about being or not being robbed at gunpoint. Usain Bolt was still fast as lightning and the women’s gymnastics teams were nothing short of amazing. Our kids in track and field racked up the medals. But we know all of that – all worthy headline stories that are constantly on any news outlet worldwide.
But did you know that American shooter Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal of the Rio Olympics, pulling off an upset in the women's 10-meter air rifle event? Thrasher, 19, beat silver medalist Du Li of China in the final round with a total of 208.0, setting an Olympic record in the finals.
Or did you hear that American shooter Kim Rhode won the bronze medal in women's skeet shooting, an honor that put her in an elite record-holding group of just five other athletes who won a medal in six different Olympic Games?
The American press is choosing what you should know and this is a good example. They did not shed positive light on our Olympic champions in gun sports. This may be partly related to our up and coming presidential election. Firearms are certainly an issue.
I have heard a number of friends say they are choosing a presidential candidate that will do the least damage to America and our core values instead of voting for the best candidate. One candidate says he and his son’s love guns and hunting while the other is allegedly choosing ways to rid our populace of guns. Is this true or is this political rhetoric?
There is no shortage of mudslinging in this campaign. Both candidates have strong opinions about firearms, often misguided, but strong opinions. Gun owners and/or most Americans are feeling a bit nervous about the upcoming election. You should be!
Have you watched the evening news or read your newspaper without finding at least one story on gun violence? That is a hot topic in America, even though less than 1 percent of gun owners may commit any kind of crime beyond a traffic ticket. The other 99 percent are honest citizens. Guns in America are owned for home protection by 67 percent of our population, 66 percent for target shooting and 58 percent for hunting.
Many honest people own firearms and may eventually be penalized by new firearms legislation if the right politicians succeed in being elected. Only the most naïve can believe that criminals will ever abide by gun laws or turn in their guns because legislation claims it must happen. When that dark day comes, who do you think will own the guns? Not the honest majority of hard-working Americans!
That said, I do believe in background checks and waiting periods. Mentally challenged individuals or criminals should never own a firearm of any kind. I would make firearm crimes punishable with more severe penalties, giving the offender time to think if the crime is worth doing the time or even getting the death penalty.
I feel badly for America’s youth. They may never go shooting with family members or friends. During my youth we had guns for target shooting or hunting. Those who did not want to hunt did not, no one questioned their decision.
The key to firearms and shooting is proper education. Learn how to shoot properly with unlimited gun safety. We had BB guns by age 7 in the 1950s and 1960s. My brother and I learned from our father many years before hunter’s education classes existed. We have spent thousands of hours hunting together without any kind of close call. We had an excellent teacher who learned in the Marines.
But today you do have these valuable, free hunter’s education classes that teach how to safely handle and shoot a gun. They are mandatory for shooters of a certain age, but at least in my opinion, should be for all shooters – no matter how long you’ve been shooting. A refresher course would make shooters even safer.
Crime in America continues. I will never understand why idiots are shooting at our police. I would hate to live in my neighborhood without police to watch our backs. I will always say God bless our police and firefighters. Thanks to each every one of you brave souls!
So I will get off my soap box now with hopes that America will eventually recognize shooting for the sport it is. Hopefully somehow we will elect the best candidates so firearms achievements will be publicly applauded and not classified under another segment of crime in America!
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org