When you think of the elite, well heeled youngsters who pack their bags each fall and head to the nation’s most prestigious universities, what sort of hobbies come to mind? Quidditch, natch. Competitive robot wars? Maybe. Or perhaps they’re too busy signing up for the campus women’s studies group to be bothered. But how about… guns? It turns out that shooting is more popular inside those ivy covered walls than you might have guessed.

In between completing problem sets, writing code, organizing hackathons, worrying about internships and building solar cars, a group of MIT students make their way to the athletic center, where they stand side-by-side, load their guns and fire away.

They are majoring in biological engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, aeronautics, mechanical engineering, computer science and nuclear science. Before arriving at MIT, nearly all of them had never touched a gun or even seen one that wasn’t on TV…

[Nick] McCoy is one of the brainiacs on MIT’s pistol and rifle teams, which, like other college shooting teams, have benefited from the largesse of gun industry money and become so popular that they often turn students away. Teams are thriving at a diverse range of schools: Yale, Harvard, the University of Maryland, George ­Mason University, and even smaller schools such as Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and Connors State College in Oklahoma.

“We literally have way more students interested than we can handle,” said Steve Goldstein, one of MIT’s pistol coaches.

The authors of this wave of gun loving teens turn out to be the usual hobgoblins which plague the Left… the NRA and their supporters. By investing in competitive shooting sports on campus, they hoped to give young people a chance to experience the shooting life for themselves rather than relying on the daily narrative they are fed by the media. And at least in some cases the investment seems to be paying off.

“I had a poor view, a more negative view of people who like guns than I do now,” said Hope Lutwak, a freshman on MIT’s pistol team. “I didn’t understand why people enjoyed it. I just thought it was very violent.”

And that’s precisely what the gun industry hoped it would hear after spending the past few years pouring millions of dollars into collegiate shooting, targeting young adults just as they try out new activities and personal identities.

I first noticed this story when it was highlighted by Michael Walsh at PJ Media, and I really hadn’t heard much about this phenomena before. Of course, that immediately makes me wonder why we haven’t heard more about this. Could it be that the popularity of gun sports on campus doesn’t exactly fit in with the story that certain people in the press are trying to tell? Food for thought.

This was a good move by the NRA, and by that I mean good for the nation and not just their organization. (Disclosure, in case we have to do this for the umpteenth time: I’m a member.) When I was growing up, exposure to shooting wasn’t ever an issue. We lived out in the country and pretty much every boy (and a fair number of the girls) got a gun by the time they were in high school. Usually you were begging your dad for one before you were even ready. Most everyone hunted and target shooting was as common as kite flying in terms of recreational pastimes.

Things are different today on a couple of fronts. First, kids growing up increasingly in more urban areas have no opportunity to experience shooting, much the same as many of them don’t know how to swim. They just don’t have that opportunity in the neighborhoods where they grow up. But even more of a hindrance comes for the kids growing up with politically active, liberal parents. They are indoctrinated from an early age to believe that guns are bad. Period. Full stop. But the college experience is a time not only for education, but for spreading one’s wings and trying new things. Having a shooting club on campus provides an opportunity for young adults to explore new experiences which may have been missing at home.

I’m glad to see the NRA investing in initiatives such as this. I don’t expect it to entirely transform the university mentality overnight, but it’s a good start.