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My Expert Award from the NRA Published February 19, 2018

I have read the "Rants of Rage" taking over the internet on the Gun Control issue. There are the people calling for voters to reject anyone taking a donation from the N.R.A. and there are the gun owners who cry out "How dare you?" Beyond these rants are the poignant calls from the students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and the parents from Sandy Hook School in Connecticut who call out "When will you act?"

So here is my story, actually my letter to Wayne LoPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association.

Dear Mr. Lopierre,

I Can't Stop Loving You by Ray Charles was the number one song in America when I picked up a .22 rifle for the first time in a Maine summer camp. I was, at best, an average athlete, playing third base a few months earlier for my ninth grade team. I don't recall my batting average but probably hit about .250 for the season and avoided making too many errors on balls hit to me. I was very, very average.

When I stepped onto that rifle range I expected, like everything else, an average performance. But I was pleasantly surprised. I was initially advised that there were, I believe, sixteen marksman awards to be achieved from "novice" to "distinguished". We had to learn to shoot prone (lying on ones stomach), sitting, kneeling and standing. We shot at a target about one inch thick from fifty feet away and, as our skills progressed, the one inch target would become a half inch target.

We were advised that, if we attained between rankings seven to ten, we would accomplish a lot that summer. Yet here I was ... three weeks to go in an eight week summer camp and I was working on award fifteen out of sixteen, that of an expert marksman. I had to hit, I believe it was, six targets at each position (total of 24) with a score of all five shots being in the small, one half inch circle. Five out of five was very difficult and no one else in camp was working on their expert award.

How did I do it? I was an average and near sighted athlete. My instructor told me it was my calm demeanor and my soft, careful and slow touch on the trigger when firing. So with a week to go in the season I had made about a half of those required targets for Expert and we were only allowed one half hour of shooting three times a week. It had taken me two weeks to get the first half completed.

No one thought I would make it but then there was this one morning. I don't know how I did it but my soft touch was a bit softer and I felt a calmness take over me. Every attempt I made resulted in the expert level score and I was within a target or two of meeting my requirements.

Well, I did make it on the last day and a few months later I received that expert reward, a pin the size of the target I had to hit in five out of five attempts, six times in each of the four positions.

A few weeks after my accomplishment we were watching a movie about the Revolutionary war at home. I remember watching the soldiers fighting. They would fire then have to reload, first stuffing the ball into the barrel of their musket then the powder. I remember thinking how far technology had come. I could fill my .22 rifle with five or six shells in about fifteen seconds and shoot them off probably every five seconds compared to what seemed to be an eternity for the Patriot soldiers as they reloaded and attempted to avoid enemy fire at the same time.

Now fifty-six years have passed since I obtained that Expert Award. I could perhaps fire seven or eight shots in a minute with a .22 rifle but that would be without the soft, accurate approach that allowed me to obtain that award. When shooting at that speed I would be fortunate to hit the larger, one inch target at all. Revolutionary war soldiers took 20 seconds to prepare one ball to fire at an enemy. That is three shots per minute.

The 19 year old young man, who was responsible for those seventeen deaths in Parkland, Florida used an ArmaLite (A-15) Rifle. So did the young man, who murdered so many young children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School several years ago.

My research states that the AR-15 can fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute depending on the skill of the operator. The shooter was on a rifle team at school.

Mr. Lopierre ... I have kept only one award, received during my high school and college years . It is my Expert Rifle Award pin. I will gladly return it to the NRA in return for support from your organization to create a compromised approach to firearm purchases in order to protect innocent people, including school children from harm.

I do not advocate taking away all firearms but why does anyone outside of the military and law enforcement need to have a weapon like the AR-15 in their home and available to be used at an unforeseen and uncontrollable moment of anger?

I was a marksman who truly enjoyed one summer of shooting success. I have been told that the AR-15 is used in hunting? I do not hunt but I do know that the discipline I learned shooting a .22 rifle , that of carefully setting my position while shooting, holding my breath, softly pulling the trigger to not jerk the rifle off of the target ... that was sport.

" Is shooting a bullet once per second at an animal the same type of sport? Or is it slaughter?"
Is shooting a bullet once per second at an animal the same type of sport? Or is it slaughter?

We need to find some answers and I again offer to give up my cherished badge if you will commit to participate in finding a gun control solution. Without one I fear for the future of our country.


Tim Ferguson

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