Monday, May 7, 2018

NRA Darling Sensation 'Alpha Addy'

At the Los Angeles Times, "She's a YouTube sensation and NRA darling: Meet 9-year-old sharpshooter 'Alpha Addy'":

The gap-toothed 9-year-old girl walked the floor of her first National Rifle Assn. convention, her blond ponytail bobbing above earrings fashioned from bullet casings.

When Addysson "Addy" Soltau arrived at the Smith & Wesson booth, she gravitated to a sleek silver .22 semiautomatic Victory pistol, a James Bond-style gun with a silencer attached. It was just out of reach. So her godfather lifted it from the wall and handed it to the girl, who gripped and sighted along the gun like a pro. She already shoots an M&P 15-22 rifle hanging nearby.

"That's actually your next gun," her godfather, Johnny Campos, said of the pistol. Addy gaped, overjoyed.

"Alpha Addy" became a YouTube sensation and NRA darling after she started shooting three years ago, one of many competitive girl shooters who buck not only gun culture stereotypes, but the youth-driven gun control movement that sprung up after the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., this year.

The NRA doesn't track the number of young female shooters, a spokesman said, but as the number of women with guns has grown, they are inspiring their daughters. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says there's been a 77% increase in female gun ownership since 2005, with 5.4 million women participating in target shooting.

All of the youth celebrities at this weekend's annual NRA convention in Dallas, which was expected to draw more than 80,000 people, were female. Keystone Sporting Arms, which sold the Crickett and Chipmunk starter rifles at the convention under the banner "Never too young to understand freedom," sells as many pink and turquoise guns as the traditional colors, staff said. On Sunday, families with children flocked to the Dallas convention center for NRA Youth Day.

Many who stopped at the JM4 Tactical booth where Addy was greeting fans Sunday were parents and girl shooters who recognized her from her videos. A video of her rapidly reloading at home has more than 30 million views; she has 14,000 Facebook followers, 5,600 on Instagram and nearly 300 subscribers on YouTube, where the lead video shows her target shooting to the tune of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball."

Addy was inspired by 17-year-old Katelyn Francis, a female competitive shooter she saw featured on NRATV while her godfather was babysitting her in San Antonio. Then she found the YouTube channel of Faith and Jenna Collier, sisters in nearby Austin who were about her age, and asked if she could shoot too.

Campos, 28, a retired Marine, agreed to coach her.

"She had never been around firearms. I didn't own any. Her parents didn't. This all started because she showed an interest," he said.

Addy's parents, who work at an education company, had their doubts.
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