New Trend: Seniors Are Packing Heat

400% more people 65 and older are getting firearms training
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2016 10:38 AM CDT
New Trend: Seniors Are Packing Heat
Capitol City Arms Supply owner Steve Swartz shows off a Barrett .50-caliber rifle in Springfield, Ill.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

The arthritis in her shoulder makes it difficult to wield the pistol. "But," says 63-year-old Phyllis Engler, "I think with practice I’ll be fine." The Ohio woman is among the increasing number of people in their 60s, 70s, and older who are getting into guns, the Wall Street Journal reports. In fact, the NRA tells the WSJ that 22,739 senior citizens received firearm training from NRA-certified instructors last year, up some 400% from 2010. A feeling that the world is becoming a less predictable, more dangerous place is fueling the trend. Stephen Eyler, 71, says he and his wife have felt threatened by strangers on two occasions, and they worry about random shootings, "radicals," and people with mental problems—"You see it on the news almost every day."

So the couple got a pair of Glock semiautomatic handguns (his wife got a petite model) and they plan on pursuing concealed-carry permits. Another senior citizen in Michigan, Byron Rocheleau, tells WXYZ, "I don't want to go somewhere and say 'boy I wish I had my pistol'. Maybe I could be saving someone else's life." However, Harvard health policy professor David Hemenway tells the WSJ that shooting an assailant is hard: "If they’re running at you, you have half a second or something," adding that having a gun at home increases the chance of suicide or accidental shootings. His suggestion: "Get a dog, get a good lock, get good neighbors, get a cellphone." But Justyn Vest, assistant manager of a range in California, says older shooters are some of the best trained. "They have the most time," he tells KERO. Some ranges even have senior days. After all, says Rocheleau, if someone is threatening you, "What are you going to do? Answer the door in a butter knife?" (More senior citizens stories.)

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