Increasing Rifle Purchase Age is Baseless
By Randy Santucci
Dicks Sporting Goods, a Pittsburgh based corporation, has recently decided to increase the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21. As a (58-year-old) life resident of the Commonwealth, I would like to bring forth some facts of rifle sales and use as it relates to Pennsylvania. My qualifications to comment on this topic come from my involvement as an avid outdoors man, hunter, and shooter. I have involved myself as a lifelong member of local sporting clubs and serve as Chairman of the Board for The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, a sporting advocacy group with the largest statewide individual membership in Pennsylvania. I have testified several times in front of Pa. House and Senate Committees. I also served on Governor Tom Corbett’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation.
We all are appalled at violence of any type, and when the body count rises, so does the news coverage and our emotions. Throughout life we all can relate to emotions being a deluded part of decision making. Often in retrospect we learn how to manage our emotions to make better decisions based on fact and circumstance. With that statement, and recognizing the following outlined facts of Pennsylvania hunting, I hope Dick’s will revisit their decision to restrict rifle sales, and how it negatively effects young adult hunter rifle purchases. Pennsylvania has nearly 1 million licensed hunters, and on any one day of the hunting seasons, over half a million Pennsylvania hunters could be carrying a rifle hunting …. scary?….only to those that do not understand the facts, especially as they relate to youth and young hunters. Currently 160,372 of those Pennsylvania hunters are under the age of 21.
Pennsylvania hunting can put a rifle in the hands of a sitting 7 to 11-year-old, with an adult mentor sitting at an arm’s length beside him or her. They are restricted to game species hunted by stationary means. The adult mentor must always carry the rifle while moving. When a hunting location is decided upon, only then can the youth hunter hold the firearm. At age 12 after completion of a hunter/trapper safety course, a junior hunting license is then issued. A 12 to 13-year-old hunter can carry a rifle hunting, as long as accompanied at an instructional distance by 18-year-old adult family member. At age 14 and 15 a young hunter can hunt with a rifle, again only when accompanied by any adult/mentor 18 or older. When 16 years old, a young hunter can then hunt alone with a rifle. For decades this process has worked flawlessly with few exceptions. As you can see, responsible training of firearm handling and ownership reaps indisputable success. In fact, not only is Pennsylvania’s hunting safety record one of the best in the nation, we have just come off two years of the all-time safest hunting data!
Perhaps with the huge sport hunting rifle use outlined, I hope more residents can understand the justifiable feeling by many Pennsylvania sportsmen of being jilted by a local corporation whose office is located in Allegheny County, the county that coincidentally sells the most hunting licenses in the commonwealth and has for over half a century. Companies that irresponsibly implement gun control measures for "feel good" corporate identity, that are not grounded in fact or data, throw analytical determinations based from education, knowledge, facts and data out the window. I wonder how many Dick’s rank and file employees would be disciplined if not fired if they performed their job functions based on emotion, ignoring long established, tested, and proven Dick’s guidelines? Especially if it had the potential to turn away and/or discourage hundreds of thousands of customers from shopping at their stores? If what Dick’s did was even remotely proven to be a measured response in line with historical or current data, it could be understood. But as facts reveal, some identified in this article, we have once again infringed on the rights and freedoms of the many born from the heinous actions of the very few.
Sportsmen, hunters and shooters shed tears the same as non-hunters when deranged individuals take the lives of our loved ones indiscriminately, but we must recognize and embrace the truth. Eliminating the sale of one type of gun (semi autoloading rifle) or increasing the purchase age to 21 is not supported from circumstance. Thinking a deranged shooter will not gravitate to another gun again is additionally misguided. A factual example of that is Dylann Roof. He shot and killed 9 people in The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston SC, he stated: "I wanted to purchase an assault rifle but could not afford one" He then used a Glock 45 caliber handgun to kill 9 people, he was 21 at the time.
Look at age facts pertaining to mass shootings…..The shooter that attacked the Amish school in eastern Pa. in 2006 used a hand gun and shot-gun, he killed 5 and wounded 11, he was 32 years of age. The pulse night club shooter was 29. The recent Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs Texas shooter Devin Kelly was 26. The Jason Aldean concert shooter Steven Paddock was 64. Review mass shootings in the US and you will see most are perpetrated by monsters over the age of 21. Even when a miniscule few end up being under 21, most of them used a firearm purchased by a family member or someone well over the age of 21.
I hope Dick’s can realize and reverse their actions that make the job of The Pennsylvania Game Commission, hundreds of thousands of parents, mentors, and thousands of good upstanding sporting/shooting clubs more difficult. We all work to bring young hunters into the beautiful Pennsylvania woodlands and outdoors to enjoy the great family-oriented tradition of Pennsylvania hunting. Once established, these future long-term hunters will provide revenue to Dick’s, by purchasing equipment at their local store….Please don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Yes, you reserve the right to set policy, but an 18-year-old that can serve and die for his country, also has the right to purchase a hunting rifle.
121 Beaver Grade Road
Robinson Twp. Pa. 15136