In the May/Jun issue of AMERICAN HANDGUNNER, Editor Cameron Hopkins made the following observation: "There is a tendency to deny reality when reality hurts. Denial is the mind's immediate reaction to adverse conditions that one simply does not want to acknowledge. In tactical situations, it can be a killer. In business it can be equally deadly.

If you find the following statement bothersome, ask yourself if your irritation is based on a denial response or sound reasoning. If you analyze it objectively and disagree with me, fine. Toss, your brickbats. Otherwise, hey, deal with it. Here is the statement: The gun business is in an irreversible decline and nothing can turn it around. Here's why: Shooting is becoming socially unacceptable. The same culture shift occurred with cigarette smoking and now it is happening with guns....Look at the numbers. Hunting, said to account for as much as 60 percent of the gun business, has been sliding for 10 years....Hunters declined 17 per cent in numbers from 1990 to 1998....Target shooting participation fell 5 per cent from 1993 to 1997, to 18.5 million people,....the number of federally licensed firearms dealers has plummeted from 250,000 to around 70,000, according to ATF. The percent of women who owned a gun dropped to 10.7 percent in 1998 from a high of 14.8 percent in 1993,....

What do these numbers mean? Clearly, the shooting sports and the firearms industry is slipping in popularity. Societal pressure is intense to ostracize gun owners. Killing animals for sport is viewed askance. Admitting that you own a gun raises an eyebrow in many circles. I have heard long time skeet shooters express dismay at the very idea of owning an 'assault weapon', agreeing wholeheartedly with the governments' ban. When our own ranks are turning against us, the writing is on the wall.

What to do about it? The NSSF pontificated about the need for a national PR campaign to portray shooting as a wholesome pastime. Spin doctor Columbine? I don't think so. Gun ownership is like AIDS; right or wrong, it carries a stigma in our society. Nothing can be done to prevent continuing negative messages about guns that are coloring the public's view on guns. I repeat: The gun business is in an irreversible decline and nothing can turn it around.

Vote Republican, write letters to newspapers, join the NRA, buy Ruger stock, move to Montana, bury a box of AKs. But don't go into denial over the fact that there is an inexorable cultural shift away from manhood in general, and shooting in particular." (Underlined areas are mine.)

Never have I read a statement in a gun magazine that I wanted to disagree with more. I want to stand up and holler "NO!" I want to jump up on my chair and shout "You are wrong!" I want to BUT I cannot. He has nailed it. We, meaning those that really enjoy guns and shooting, are in trouble. The media is destroying us. Political correctness is destroying us. And as he has pointed out, we are destroying ourselves.

Is it really as bad as he says or is it just that he lives in the People's Republic of Kalifornia and his views are tainted? I wish it were so. I live in a gun state. A place where shooting and hunting are still "respectable" but consider these: 1) Hunting is down 20 percent over the last 30 years even though population has gone up. 2) I spent 30+ years teaching at the junior high level. In 1968 Bob Munden brought his fast draw show to our school for an assembly. How many schools would do this now? Hint the answer, no matter what the state, is ZERO! 3) Two of us teachers used to bring our muzzle loading rifles and revolvers to school once a year and show the kids how to shoot out on the back fields. We had special permission from the police department to shoot as we were just barely inside the city limits. Today? What do you suppose the latest police chief would say to this? 4) We always shot after school in the immediate foothills. All of that area is now closed down. 5) The vast desert south of town is mostly closed for a Birds of Prey Refuge and military operations. 6) This gun state is now politically correct in that the Republican legislature passed, and the Republican governor signed a bill making it illegal to possess firearms on school property.

There are a few bright spots. Cowboy Action Shooting has brought many non-shooters into shooting but even if there are 100,000 participants, that is only about as many people as jam the Rose Bowl every year for one "sporting event" on one day. More states have CCW licensing in place than don't but we do not yet have national recognition of one state's licenses by every other state.

I would hope that some great event would occur to change things but history teaches us that this is highly unlikely. Even Great Britain did not change after they were caught so totally unprepared in World War II. After the war they not only went back to their same path of disarmament, it got worse until now handguns and many long guns are now virtually outlawed in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. The UN is working hard to make this reality everywhere including in this country and many of our leaders not only go along with it they wholeheartedly support it. Couple this with the deliberate dumbing down of America in our public schools and the future looks bleak indeed.

Perhaps there is some situation waiting on the far horizon that will change things around. Not very likely but perhaps. Until then I view the shooting activities like aging. I cannot stop the decline but I can work to slow it down as much as possible. I cannot do it by trying some grandiose scheme. I can only work in my sphere of influence as can you.

For most of us that sphere begins with family. I began by first purchasing NRA memberships for my son, my two son-in-laws, my wife, and my three grandsons. If every one of the 80,000,000 gun owners, no if just one-fourth of the shooting public, were NRA members Congress would not dare to consider punitive firearms laws against the everyday law-abiding citizen. NRA is now close to 4,000,000 members so if each one simply purchased memberships for five more people we would be there. It won't happen of course simply because we are too lazy and above all too cheap.

The most positive thing we can do is introduce others to shooting. My wife and I both have brought new shooters, both men and women into Cowboy Shooting. Those that I got started where easy for me to whip five years ago but they have gotten progressively better while I have gotten slower and they now beat me easily. That is OK. They are actively shooting and I don't have a big ego. At least not usually.

Of more importance is bringing the family members along in shooting. My wife has been a shooter since shortly after we were married. Before that she had never touched a gun. All of my kids were introduced to shooting at a very early age so they could see that guns were not toys. My son shoots, the two girls shoot occasionally. My wife is very active shooting. Of the most importance to me at this stage of my life are my grandkids. I just had the three boys together for two weeks. This is our time for doing fun things. We burned up more .22's than the misled moms had marchers. Well, almost.

This was only the second year for the youngest, Brian John, who just got out of the first grade. Last year he used a cut down .22 single-shot however this year we started with a .22 sixgun, using both a 2" S&W Kit Gun and my custom 3 1/2" Single-Six with round butt for his small hands. He doesn't know that these little guns are supposed to be hard to shoot and I am certainly not going to tell him because at this stage he looks to be natural with a sixgun. Pop cans at 10 yards do not stand a chance with him.

Above all I am teaching him safety. I try to get him to count his shots. Sometimes the hammer on the Ruger is hard for him to cock and he will skip a round. When the hammer drops on that first empty that comes back around he thinks he is through. "Is the gun empty?" I ask. "Yes" says he. I then take the gun and try to fire it a couple of times as the hammer drops on an empty and then his eyes get really big as the "empty gun" blows a pop can backwards when I find the skipped round. Actions certainly speak louder than words in this case.

The older boys, John Christopher, and Jason Michael, are both 12 and they like sixguns but they prefer rifles. For them I have two Marlin 39's with receiver sights and a Henry with a scope. They prefer the receiver sights as it is so much easier for them to sight with this set up. Like most kids they want to do things the easiest way but I push them. We start with large targets up close but then move backwards. They can kill all manner of pop cans at 50 yards with no problem now.

Shooting sessions are also learning or problem solving experiences. Schools do very little to help kids think. None can be taught to think but they can be put in situations where they must think. I normally tell all my grandkids what to do but not how to do it. When I send them to another part of the range to bring back targets or some such I tell them what to do but not how to do it. It may take a little longer but they do eventually figure out what needs to be done to accomplish an assigned task. "But Pa-Pa How?" "Think boys. Think!" I owe them that much.

How much influence can we have? I just recently celebrated, OK at my age, observed another birthday. This one was very special as I got the best birthday present I have ever received. Even better than the matched pair of S&W .44 Specials that my wife gave me. I got a letter from my son who is now an executive with a large company. A very special letter. I share a little with you. "Your birthday was today. I have a hard time reconciling your age with my mental image of you. I remember clearly the young man in his 20's and 30's...I remember how excited I was, nearly trembling when we went to the gun shop run by the short fat man with black horned rimmed glasses, a noticeable limp, and a wall eye, to pick out my first handgun. As I invested my life savings of $26 which was equally matched by you to meet the price tag of the Ruger BearCat I was in awe of my new purchase. Imagine how I felt then when the gun shop owner leaned over and with a wink dropped a 50 count box of .22 shells in my hand then lifted his finger to his lips in a gesture that I knew meant I wasn't to tell anyone of his generosity. Later, when you made me the belt and holster I voted myself the coolest kid in the world. And why wouldn't I be? I had a dad that could shoot better than anyone I knew, let me carry my sidearm like a real cowboy, molded his own bullets and reloaded his own ammo. My friends couldn't believe th stories about shooting big bore handguns. They were playing with chrome plated cap guns worn on the thigh in plastic holsters. They would fire a few caps until their pistols jammed and usually ended up popping caps on the sidewalk with a rock since that was the more reliable way to ensure the caps were properly exploded. My gun was real, the bullets were real and the leather stitched by hand. Having my name carved in the belt truly completed the ensemble....Other boys had fathers that coached them in baseball, shot baskets in the driveway with them, or took them golfing. I was the lucky one. I had a dad that shared with me his passion and time. We didn't compete, or run, jump, or throw. We spent time together and I wouldn't trade the memories of me as a boy and you as a young father for anything." There is a lot more but this is enough to show how important experiences with our family really are. I always felt a little inadequate because I didn't do basketball or golf or any of that stuff. Turns out I provided what he really needed. Now It is time to do the same with the grandkids. The girls? They haven't had too much interest in shooting BUT just today the oldest, who goes into high school this fall asked me to take her shooting. I jumped at the chance and we all be going this week.

Can we reverse the decline? Probably not. We can slow it down. We can build memories, and we can even provide what is necessary to keep these young kids from swallowing all the spins that they will encounter in life. My world is gone. Even my son's world is gone. May God Help Us All to do what we need to do to help the newest generation survive and keep their rights.