Shooting Campaign Manager David Taylor writes: Last year the Countryside Alliance embarked on an ambitious project to identify the issues young people face when starting in shooting. To help us discover the answers we conducted a National Shooting Survey between June 2011 and February 2012. In this survey, we asked the shooting public just what they thought of the problems associated in bringing young people into shooting. We hope the results will be invaluable to the future of our sport.
The importance of young people in shooting is well understood (in fact 98% of adults think so), but until this point, we have never known exactly how important. As a result of this survey, we can now support our statements with hard facts. With over 3000 respondents and nearly 400 clubs, groups and syndicates, the surveyis the most up to date reflection of the views of the shooting community.
Most importantly the survey has researched the age at which people learn to shoot. Almost two thirds of adults who replied, learnt to shoot whilst under 14 years of age. This is highly significant as 14 years was the minimum age for a shotgun certificate in a recently proposed Bill by a Labour MP that was seen off after a strong campaign from the Countryside Alliance. Using the 2006 PACEC figure of 480,000 people that shoot live quarry, this would suggest that 285,431 (59%) of these people learnt to shoot whilst under the age of 14 years.
The age at which people learn has another important factor for shooting – if people don’t learn young, they probably never will. The diminishing bars on the graph show that as a person gets older, the less likely they are to take up shooting. This is important for shooting as it proves that teaching people to shoot when they are young means that they remain in the sport.
Another significant discovery is that young people and adults have very similar preferences when it comes to shooting. Broadly speaking, each of the sports that young people said they participated in were the same as the adults, it was also found that many people participated in multiple shooting sports.
Game shooting was the most popular type of shooting for adults and the young. This is good news,because it does not mean that youngsters are exclusively spending their formative years shooting targets and clays before progressing to game. Although it is important for proper marksmanship and gun handling, field skills are also necessary. It appears our young are getting this important experience, and implies that young shots should not be treated differently to adults when it comes to shooting sports.
Moreover, the survey shows that introducing people to one kind of shooting sport does not necessarily mean that they will follow that discipline exclusively for the rest of their lives. This implies that clay grounds, rifles clubs, scout and cadets forces, although not directly game shooting related, can introduce people to shooting that will eventually gravitate to different sports. This result in particular shows why the shooting community should be doing its utmost to get involved with National Shooting Week at the beginning of June.
Another striking similarity the survey found was the way in which people are taught to shoot. When the different age groups are analysed, there is surprising consistency across all age classes with around 60% being taught by friends and family. Nevertheless, differences do occur when the age at which people were taught to shoot, rather than the age they are now, is analysed. For example, 75% of the adults who learnt to shoot under the age of 12 were taught by family or friends (50% were parents) and only 10% were taught by a shooting instructor. As 31% of all adults learnt whilst under 12, this means that the majority of those who shoot are taught by family or friends.
The percentage taught by family drops as the young person matures. As they age, people are more likely to be taught by instructors, school clubs, CCF, scouts or others cadet forces. For the age range 15-17, the percentage taught by family and friends drops further to 59%. The family figure drops again in the age range 18-24, when the “other” category changes to include university clubs, self teaching, and the military.
These results are significant in many ways. Firstly, that young people under 14 are most likely to be taught by their parents, family or friends. This may seem obvious, but it is important, as this is the key age at which most learn to shoot. The importance of this group cannot be over stated, as 63% had parents that shoot, suggesting that this important group of people will diminish by over a third each year. As a result, other means, such as a clubs, groups, cadet corps and professional shooting instructors play a key role in introducing new people. This makes non traditional routes all the more important as avenues for all types of shooting, and highlights the need for initiatives such as National Shooting Week to get people into the sport.
The main purpose of the survey was to identify the barriers that people perceive to prevent young people from getting into the sport. 76% of young people said that public perception of shooting was the most important barrier for young people getting into shooting. This was closely followed by prohibitive cost (74%) and restrictive laws for young people (72%). At the bottom end of the scale, only 39% thought that other sports competed for their attention. Proper tuition and lack of parental support gathered 34% and 30% respectively.
Adults’ opinions differed from the young. A total of 84% of adults thought that access to land was the most important barrier.; however with 74% finding it important they did agree that cost was second most important factor. Public opinion of shooting was third with 69%. Adults found proper tuition (44%) health and safety (51%) and safety concerns (54%) the least significant barriers.
Club members thought that prohibitive cost was the biggest barrier with 80% of respondents finding cost important. A further 73% thought that access to land was a main concern. Public opinion of shooting was also a close third with 68%. Safety concerns, lack of parental support and property tuition were the least important barriers according to clubs.
These differences in perceived barriers make more sense when they are seen from the point of view of the individual responder. Young people see public opinion of shooting as a main concern. This most probably comes from schools where the views of others such as teachers and classmates may not be positive about shooting. By comparison, access to land for shooting would be more of an issue for adults as they are the ones concerned sourcing such land over which to shoot. This would be less of a concern for the young people who are being accompanied or instructed
The consensus is that public opinion of shooting, prohibitive cost, and access to land, all appear to be the biggest barriers that young people are facing when getting into shooting. On the other hand, the survey also showed that there are many individuals (50% -75% of which teach young directly) and clubs willing and active in helping young people to shoot, hence proper tuition fails to be a significant hurdle. Nor were safety concerns, which shows that shooting’s exemplary safety record is well known.
This important survey highlights many issues that are crucialfor shooting sports. It shows that the vast majority of people learn to shoot while they are young, and the importance of family and friends at this age. It also shows how important young people are to those who try and restrict our sport and why everyone in the shooting community should support our campaign to prevent a minimum age on owning a shotgun certificate.
The survey also gives direction for the Countryside Alliance’s Shooting Campaign, and we will shortly be mobilising resources to address the issues raised by the survey ensuring that shooting is secure for the future.
The Countryside Alliance would like to thank all those that took the time to complete the survey, without whom this would not have been possible.