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The Young NRA

Although Millennials are stereotyped to be anti-gun, there are still those who actively support their right to bear arms, and the NRA is taking notice and finding new ways to appeal to a new wave of gun-owners.

The first time Ball State sophomore and champion shooter Lauren Owen shot a gun, she was nervous, shaky, and only in middle school. And she missed her target. Throughout her childhood, she had been taught about gun safety and how to act around guns from her family. Based on the way they treated guns,she knew it was an important part of her family, and through their example, she learned to place an importance on guns as well..

Her time to shoot finally came in the summer when she was about thirteen. Her father took her to a shooting range, and she was going to shoot a .12 gauge shotgun. She was nervous—really nervous.

Her entire body was shaking, and she wasn’t sure how she was going to feel about the experience. However, as soon as she pulled the trigger, she felt the thrill of the adrenaline racing through her body, and she was hooked. From then on, she couldn’t stop thinking about shooting. She even begged her father to take her back to the range as much as he could—which turned into every weekend. And by the time Lauren was in high school, she was named the number one shooter in Indiana.

Shooting well gave her a sense of pride, one that she continues to feel.

That pride led her to become a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association while she was in high school. The NRA aims to protect the right to bear arms, further shooting sports, and promote firearm education, according to Jason Brown, a Media Relations Manager for the NRA.

Despite the stereotype that Millennials are pro-gun control, many are active members of the NRA. And according to the Congressional Research Service, the amount of civilian guns owned in the United States has nearly doubled since 1968.

With the increase in gun ownership, the fight for protection of that right has also gained momentum. A Gallup poll from January 2016 shows that Americans’ dissatisfaction with gun laws has risen 11 percent from 2015 to 2016, bringing this to a total of 62 percent. The poll also suggests that Millennials are changing their stance on gun laws. It found that half of those aged 18 to 29 support stricter gun laws, which is around five percent less than those who are 30 or older.

Some Millennials, like Lauren, want to actively support the second amendment, and this is one reason the NRA is starting to appeal to younger people. While around half of Millennials are anti-gun and want stricter gun laws, the other half is actively working to combat their contemporaries. They want to support their right to carry, their right to own a gun, and they want to support the organization that fights for those things. These Millennials who support the NRA will be the future of the organization. Although met with adversity from within their own generation, there are already lifetime members, like Lauren, who have decided this is a fight they won’t give up.

Lauren’s main reasons for joining the NRA were support for the second amendment, as well as conservative values. She grew up in Scipio, Indiana, a small town with a population of 152 people—people with those conservative values. She was raised around guns, so she saw the importance of them and the second amendment to her family. They taught her about guns, the laws, and helped her understand their point-of-view.

But her support for the second amendment wasn’t the only factor in her decision to join the NRA. Besides defending what she believes in, it offers benefits for its members. Not only discounts on products and services, but one thing a generation burdened with student loan debt can’t pass up: Scholarships.

The NRA also sponsors the Youth Education Summit each year, in which high school sophomores and juniors can apply to win $30,000 in scholarships. The summit gives students a chance to visit Washington, D.C. and learn about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the federal government.

It also has several programs for young members, such as the Outstanding Youth Achievement Award, which was created to support a shooter under the age of 21, and the Civil Rights Defense Fund essay contest, which has a different theme each year relating to those rights. Lauren has taken advantage of both of those opportunities, and will continue to do so until she is no longer eligible.

The NRA reaches out to young people—the really young ones—through a Youth Day, in which a free six-month Junior Memberships is available to all youth in attendance. Things like face paint, coloring, wildlife identification, and meet-and-greets with USA shooting athletes are also included.

The NRA is always looking for new ways to attract more people, and Brown says that one of the other attempts they’ve had at this is through continuous modernization. They’ve worked to improve and design their firearms safety, training, and education courses for younger audiences.

At least for Lauren, these attempts at reaching out are working. But the NRA is doing more than offering discounts and scholarships and youth days, they’re changing the method by which they reach younger people and convey their message.

The NRA is currently developing a brand new Hunter Safety Education Course that will be online and valid in all 50 states, and Brown hopes that this will help the next generation learn in a more convenient way. This modern approach incorporates technology, which young people are getting increasingly used to in many aspects of life already, through the use of smartphones and technology-oriented schools.

In addition, the NRA is flocking to where Millennials gather: Online. They have increased their presence on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Their Instagram and Twitter accounts alone are followed by over 720,000 people, Lauren being just one of the many. She appreciates that the NRA keeps their website and media up to date, especially during the recent election.

Millennials, like Lauren, who have decided this is a cause they care about will be the future of the organization. Without young people to take the reins and keep fighting, the NRA would die out amidst a generation stereotyped as anti-gun. And with a 50/50 split in views on guns among Millennials, the fight will more than likely continue.

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