Do something patriotic: Own, know how to use a rifle
By Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Last month, I spent a day learning how to fire a rifle at an event that is sweeping the nation: the Appleseed Project.

Appleseed is a rifle marksmanship program developed by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association that also emphasizes the history of our War of Independence, particularly the first Battles of Lexington and Concord.

The program attempts to teach the vital rifle skills that used to be common and that won our nation it’s freedom, but that are disappearing from our national general knowledge.

The low-cost program is designed to grow exponentially: visiting instructors teach local events, and then further train interested participants to be local instructors (who then teach even more people).

Since its inception in 2006, the program has graduated ten thousand participants, and, as the fastest-growing shooting event in North America, program leaders hope to increase that number by tenfold annually (100,000 by year-end 2010 and one million by 2011).

This is an incredibly great idea.

The founding fathers of our country understood that the best way to safeguard the liberty of citizens was to leave most power with the citizens and divide government power between levels and branches.

Similarly, gun ownership and skills, being a bulwark of liberty, should be broadly spread among the majority of citizens.

In many countries, dictators take power by gaining control of the military or police, leaving an unarmed populace with no recourse. This would be more difficult to do in America, where half of households own firearms.

Unfortunately, while the number of firearms owned by citizens is increasing, the number of households that own them is decreasing, particularly in the Northeast states, and among increasingly women-headed households. This means that fewer people (about 25% of adults – still nearly 50 million people) now own guns to defend themselves and deter would-be tyrants.

This trend among some Americans to rely on “specialists” to take care of life’s important responsibilities is disturbing and bodes poorly for ensuring that our freedoms will be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren.

That’s why Appleseed’s mission is so important.

People fear what they don’t understand, especially dangerous things for which the benefits outweigh the dangers. We need widespread ownership of firearms, just like we need fire, or financial investments – or democracy for that matter – they are necessary to better our lives, but they all require some experience and skill to wield safely.

Only a generation ago, people grew up learning to handle rifles with their parents and grandparents. And rifle clubs were common in high schools and colleges, but our government-run educational facilities have mostly stamped those out in the name of “safety” (government safety, that is).

Not having grown up using firearms, I too have been uncomfortable with them, even though my husband is a longtime gun enthusiast and I understand their importance.

I had only fired a rifle a few times before I attended Appleseed, but I soon found myself improving. I was far from a master marksman by the end of the one day I could attend, but I did learn rifle safety and the basics of shooting accurately from standing, seated and prone positions.

So why the rifle and not other types of guns? The rifle has a long history in citizen militias, and conventional militaries (including our own) have been hard-pressed to fight effectively against peasants armed with them.

So for those readers who want to do something patriotic and genuinely helpful to your country, do what earlier generations knew was their duty: own and know how to use a rifle.

If enough people own them, it insures that we never have to use them.

The good news is that there is another Appleseed event next weekend (October 24-25) less than an hour from Iowa City (near Wayland, a town south of Washington, IA). It costs only $70 for two days, and no charge at all for women, under-21 and active military.

Bring a friend or two, or a family member (the event I attended had at least half a dozen women there). Borrow a rifle if you don’t have one (if you don’t know anyone with one, email Appleseed). To register, visit their website:

Do it for your country, your children and yourself.