Several weeks ago the Little Rock Gun Rights Examiner published an article about a young girl whose video of a gun competition has been all over the internet. The video features 13-year-old sharp shooter, Katelyn Francis, swiftly make her way through a three gun competition course in Texas last year, her abilities putting even most grown men to shame. She makes shooting her Benelli M2 shotgun look as easy as a youth .22, and does it all with style and grace.
Jennifer Cruz, the Little Rock Gun Rights Examiner, recently had a chance to interview Katelyn. Her intelligence, humility and respect for the sport were evident from the beginning.
Katelyn has her own Facebook fan page, which highlights her life as a competitive shooter. Just since last month, her number of fans, as well the post likes, comments and shares have more than tripled. That’s certainly impressive for any Facebook page. When asked how she felt about this and jokingly if she felt famous, her reply was simple.
It doesn’t affect me I don’t think. I don’t feel famous.
Katelyn described what it was like when she first learned to shoot at the age of five. She explained that first and foremost her dad went over safety with her. She had to learn extensively about firearm safety before she was ever even allowed to touch a gun. She recalls her first experience shooting a gun.
The first gun I ever shot was a .22 revolver; it was a ‘cowboy’ gun. I was scared the first time I shot it because it made loud noises and it kicked a lot for a 5 year old.
Katelyn then talked about her competitions, one of which is featured in the video that’s gained such popularity. She first starting competing in 2012 and her first major match was the Pro-Am in Kentucky. Surprisingly, she explains that she’s never actually won the match.
I compete against everyone shooting, even professionals, so I haven’t ever won overall, but I have won in my Jr. Division before in some local matches.
She states that the thing she enjoys most about the competitions is being able to travel, meet other people and experiment with the stage guns.
For someone to be as good as she is, practice is essential. Katelyn states that her family is very busy, so she’s not always able to practice every night like she would like to, but she still practices as often as she can. During nice weather she’ll do actual target shooting. When the weather is bad, she practices in the basement by loading her shotgun, drawing her pistol, transitioning her rifle and changing out magazines; all important skills when competing.
As the name implies, in the three gun competitions, competitors shoot three different types of guns through a tactical course: Full-auto (stage guns), shotguns, and pistols. When asked which was her favorite to shoot – thinking for sure it would be the full-auto – she revealed it was her Benelli M2 12GA shotgun. She explains that she was scared of shotguns for a long time, but that she’s now realized how fun they are to shoot.
Katelyn was then asked about the time she’s able to spend with her dad with this unique hobby. Most agree that father daughter time is often lacking in families today. She explains how the sport has helped her to become closer to her dad and other family members.
I do think that I am a lot closer to my dad because of this sport. We have a lot of time that we spend together because we both practice for the matches. My little sister, Macy, doesn’t really care to shoot much, so she spends more time with my mom and other sister, Sagel. My dad shoots competitively and has for a long time. He is the State’s Marksmanship coordinator for the Missouri National Guard, so he does it for work and for fun. Sometimes we all go out and shoot skeet together, including my grandpa and uncles and my grandma, aunts, mom and sisters watch the competition. My grandpa and uncles line up to compete with me, they think it’s fun.
Katelyn was asked what advice she would offer for other kids wanting to get into the sport. Once again, she falls back on the importance of safety.
I would tell them that they need to know the basic fundamentals and the safety before they start shooting… It looks easy to do, but it really takes a lot of practice and concentration. There is a lot to know before you can get good at the sport.
On Katelyn’s Facebook page, she jokingly made a comment about not training for zombies, the CIA or the Navy SEALS, but that she is keeping her options open. So, she was asked what she did think she might want to do when she grows up.
I want to go to medical school. I know it’s going to be a lot of school, but I really want to help kids that are sick. I’m good at math and science, they are my best subjects.
And, of course, Katelyn does have other hobbies besides just shooting. She says she likes to paint her nails and that she does so every night. She also likes to play basketball, listen to music and just hang out and laugh with her friends.
Katelyn seems like a lovely young lady and the gun rights community commends her for not only her great skills, but for being a prime example of who gun owners in America really are.
The Little Rock Gun Rights Examiner, Jennifer Cruz, then had a chance to talk with Katelyn’s parents.
Jennifer Cruz: What was your first reaction when Katelyn first starting showing an interest in shooting?
Julie Francis: The first time Katie and her sister, Macy, had a firearm in their hands, I came home from work and their dad had them in the basement with .22 revolvers in their hands. I freaked out because Katie was 5 and Macy was 4. Even though I grew up around guns, I still had a healthy fear of them and was not comfortable seeing them in my children’s possession. Chad quickly explained to me that he had been teaching them gun safety for a while before ever letting them touch a gun. The girls quickly showed and told me the gun safety rules that Chad had taught them. After that experience, it became a common sight for them to handle guns. They were always safer than I was with them and they would often correct me when I wasn’t following the gun safety rules.
Chad Francis: Obviously I was happy to see the interest. I think at first, it started as a way to hang out with dad because I shoot a lot. I think around the age of 7, Katie started asking more and more to shoot. This was when I knew she had a love for it.
JC: Do you feel that Katelyn has been given unique opportunities that she otherwise wouldn’t have gotten due to her competitive shooting?
JF: I think that she has gotten to travel a lot and see a lot of the country that she wouldn’t have been able to see without her competitions. The matches that she goes to aren’t where we would normally go on our family vacations, but are still a great part of the country to see. I also think she has made some great friends in the shooting community, both men and women- some her own age and some a lot older. She has experienced a lot of life experiences that other children don’t get to experience until they are much older, if at all.
CF: She has been forced to get out of her comfort zone and interact with adults she doesn’t know. I think this is great for any kid. She has also felt the pressure of competition and handled it well. This will serve her well in life.
JC: Do you ever get negative feedback from others in regards to Katelyn’s hobby? What do you say?
JF: We do get negative feedback, some from my own friends. I explain to them that Katie is safer than most adults with guns and that she has a passion for the sport. I tell them she also shows passion for other things, like basketball and charity work, so we encourage that also. Everyone has a right to their own opinions, but ours is the only one that counts when it comes to parenting our kids.
CF: Sometimes, but mostly on [Facebook]. Most people don’t have the nerve to say that to someone’s face, they would rather hide behind a keyboard. I think Katie is a great spokesperson for the sport and she is getting to learn about our constitutional rights at an early age.
JC: What would you say to other parents whose children want to get into shooting as a hobby? Do you have any advice you would give them?
JF: I encourage other parents to get their kids involved in the sport. It truly is good, clean fun. Someone gave me great advice when my children were young- get them involved with sports and keep them active and you won’t ever have to worry about problems with drugs and poor grades. We have found this to be true with our children. I would advise other parents to not hand their kids all of the equipment (guns, ammo, gear) needed, to make them try to raise money on their own- it makes them more responsible and invested in the sport. Katie makes and sells survival bracelets and knits scarves to help pay for her equipment and I think this makes her a much more appreciative and well-rounded child.
CF: Not to just hand children a gun, teach them the proper safety rules. I hunted with no shells for three years until I proved to my dad I could be safe. I took the same approach with Katie.
A special thanks to Katelyn and her parents for taking the time to do this interview. Keep up the good work!
©2013 Jennifer L. Cruz. All rights reserved.
Be sure to check out her other Examiner columns.