A 15-year-old boy fires an assault rifle at human-shaped targets while walking through a desert shooting range. Whipping a pistol from a holster, another teen shoots rapidly at man-shaped targets that pop from behind barrels.
These are scenes shown in online videos from specialized summer camps around the country where children as young as nine years old fire assault-style guns and ammunition as they learn practical shooting, a controversial sport that mimics combat situations. Target shooting, in which participants fire low-caliber guns at round paper targets, has long been a staple of American summer camps. Unlike regular target shooting, however, practical shooters fire semi-automatic assault rifles, high capacity pistols and shotguns, often at human-shaped targets.
The summer camps are an introduction for children to the growing sport of practical shooting. The sport’s largest governing body in this country, the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), counts more than 25,000 members and matches are held regularly around the world. The group’s membership has increased from about 19,000 members in 2010.