Engaging Newcomers Through Fun, Education

By Jade Moldae

At the time, people were a bit bemused at the Oxford Dictionaries’ choice for its 2017 Word of the Year: youthquake. Defined as “a significant cultural, political or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people,” this previously little-known term was first coined in 1965 (by a Vogue editor, oddly enough). While not widely used here in the U.S., it encapsulates the growing trend of youths mobilizing as activists. Last year, a youthquake rose to prominence on the premise of restricting gun rights: the March For Our Lives movement, which continues to mobilize.

Today, the industry has the tools at its disposal to create a “quake” of its own to frame the conversation and generate a passionate following of young sportsmen and women enjoying the sport and tradition of shooting, hunting and the great outdoors. 

In an encouraging development, dealers and organizations have taken up the mantle both locally and nationally. 

Bring The “Experience” To Life
It’s not a coincidence this issue has articles on connecting with millennials and tips for expanding sales at the range. Today, the local range represents a key cog in introducing younger shooters to the “fun” of the shooting sports. 

Inside “Generation Next,” Ultimate Defense’s Paul Bastean had an insightful take on his operation’s most valuable asset.

“The retail segment of our business is actually our least valuable behind training and range usage,” he shared. “We realized a significant portion of millennials’ only experience with firearms was through playing video games or watching them in movies — so, we created events to help simulate these scenes within the safety of our range.”

Ultimate Defense has achieved great success with its themed nights, which include “John Wick”- and Old West-inspired events. Creative initiatives like this are critical for introducing new enthusiasts to the sport — opening the door for excited newcomers to share their positive experiences with friends on social media and at family engagements.

Your store or range is vital in introducing first-time visitors to the “fun” of the shooting sports. Proper education and a commitment to safety represent two critical components to clearing misnomers about the industry.

Many Paths To Gun Safety
On a more national scale, the NSSF has worked to expand the industry’s safety message to a broader demographic. In April, the NSSF and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) unveiled a new video series, “Many Paths To Gun Safety,” to help educate new and prospective gun owners on the responsibilities associated with keeping a firearm in the home.

Consisting of three short videos, the series portrays different gun owners at various life stages sharing their story of gun ownership — and the lengths they’ve gone to ensure they handle and store firearms safely when not in use so they can’t be picked up by a child, stolen or accessed by someone who may want to harm themselves.

Funding for the videos came from the competitive $2.4 million grant the BJA awarded to NSSF’s Project ChildSafe initiative in 2015. Real-life videos like these resonate with consumers, especially as more non-traditional end users enter our ranks.

For more information, visit www.projectchildsafe.org/educationalvideos.

NSSF and BJA’s new video series, “Many Paths To Gun Safety,” portrays three different gun owners and their stories of ownership — along with the steps they took to handle and store their firearms safely when not in use.

Educating Elected Officials
Equally important as educating younger and first-time customers, engaging with elected officials — local, state and even national legislators — should be a top objective for every company associated with the industry. Events like the NSSF’s Congressional Fly-In (detailed inside this month’s edition of Industry News, p. 10–11), give attendees a forum to meet directly with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle — thus personalizing our vibrant industry. 

It’s effective in generating opportunities for bipartisanship, which I’ve witnessed firsthand. This year our team held a meeting with a Democratic representative (not known to be a staunch friend of the industry) that was facilitated the day of the Fly-In. He rearranged his schedule just so he could meet with us in person and hear our perspective. It may not lead to a paradigm shift or change in voting habits, but I can bet the Congressman’s view of the industry looks a little different.

Next year will likely be another pivotal year as the 2020 election cycle is already in full swing. Scheduled for April 21–22, NSSF’s 2020 Congressional Fly-In is worth your consideration — regardless if you’re a mainline manufacturer, small retail store or any other associated business in between. 

And who knows? If we’re successful at “moving the needle” in the subtopics above, maybe we could coin a term of our own — industryquake. You heard it here first, folks.

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