Members of the GW College Republicans rose at dawn Saturday to learn about gun safety and shoot a few rounds at the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax, Va.
Following a brief course on gun safety, a certified NRA instructor escorted students onto a shooting range in groups of four to supervise them as they each fired 10 rounds from a .22-caliber pistol.
NRA Grassroots Coordinator Suzie Faulks then addressed the group of
29 CRs to clarify the NRA's mission and misconceptions she said people have about guns. The group also toured the NRA's National Firearms Museum.
Faulks said FBI statistics show the number of gun-related accidents in the United States has declined more than 70 percent since the 1930s, despite a population increase and a rise in gun ownership.
Faulks said handgun bans do not work, citing FBI records that show homicide rates in D.C. tripled since the city enacted a handgun ban in 1977.
Faulks reiterated the NRA's stance that better enforcement of the country's more than 20,000 gun laws - rather than more laws - is the solution to reducing gun-related crime.
NRA member and GW senior Nien Su said the media have portrayed guns negatively in light of the recent school shootings.
"I hate it because when I was growing up, I had access to guns and nothing happened," Faulks said. She said education is the key to understanding gun issues.
CR freshman representative Dan Moss said visiting the NRA was more hands-on and educational than the group's usual campus events.
"It was a learning experience," Moss said after shooting a gun for the first time. Moss said he organized the trip after other CRs expressed interest in the NRA.
Members said the experience gave them a different perspective on guns.
"I was really scared when I got in here because you grow up thinking guns are such a horrible thing and that you need to stay away from them," CR Chair-elect Shannon Flaherty said. "After holding it and shooting it, you realize you have control over this weapon and I thought it was very exhilarating."
CR Chair Bill Eldridge said the event highlighted the purpose of the NRA.
"The NRA's number one goal is gun safety," he said. "They don't use their dues money for lobbying. They do that through donations. The grassroots lobbying firms that are against the NRA don't spend any money for gun safety - they just spend money attacking the NRA."