- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The American Revolution, and all that has followed, serves in many ways to explain the history of Americans and guns. From the farmers who confronted British regulars at Lexington and Concord to the men and women on the front lines fighting today as part of the War on Terror, Americans have relied on and developed a unique relationship with and appreciation for firearms and the shooting sports.

The men who drafted the Bill of Rights to our Constitution considered the right to bear arms so important that they included it as the Second Amendment, just behind the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech, religion and the right to petition government.

Today nearly 50 percent of American households own one or more guns for hunting, self-defense, plinking, competition or as part of a gun collection. And a recent Pew poll revealed that more Americans than ever support private firearms ownership and feel safer knowing that they have one. They know owning a gun leaves them in a better position to protect themselves and their families than would otherwise be the case.

The men and women who carved the new American nation often came from European countries where firearms ownership was illegal and one could be imprisoned for hunting because the shooting sports were reserved for the few and the wealthy. Taming the wilderness to which they flocked, however, was a dangerous business. And they and their children and grandchildren quickly learned to use the firearms they couldn’t own in Europe to defend and feed themselves and their families in this new, great country.

Since those shots that were indeed heard ‘round the world rang out, American men and women have relied on firearms to defend America and her allies abroad and to keep the peace and protect their families and communities at home. But they have also developed a deep affection for what are known as the shooting sports. Today millions of American men and women compete in shooting competitions both formal and informal, take to the field to hunt wild game for pleasure and to put food on the table. They attend hundreds of gun shows around the country, can be found practicing at thousands of private and public ranges and attend National Rifle Association and other outdoor events.

Those who make up our nation’s all volunteer armed forces bring with them an inherent appreciation of the firearms they are asked to carry while in the service and return to civilian life to join the ranks of veterans and others who enjoy the shooting sports. The remarkable thing about the involvement of returning veterans is not just that so many both enjoy taking to the field or range, but that in doing so their return to civilian life and ability to cope with what so many were forced to go through in service to their country is made much smoother than they expected.

A celebration of the shooting sports in the United States today is inextricably linked with our veterans and their service.

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