New Jersey Girl, 10, Is a Rising Competitive Shooting Star Out to Prove 'Girls Can Do Whatever Boys Can Do'

Shyanne Roberts of N.J. is out to prove 'girls can do whatever boys can do.'

December 2, 2014, 7:40 PM

— -- Ten-year-old Shyanne Roberts loves purple: Purple sneakers, purple bike -- even her semi-automatic shotgun is purple.

“[It’s] a Beretta 1301, 12 gauge,” she said, holding up a firearm that is longer than she is tall.

While other girls her age are trying to master ballet or soccer, Shyanne is a rising star in the rapidly-growing sport of competitive shooting.

A self-proclaimed “Tomboy Diva” from New Jersey, Shyanne started shooting when she was 5 years old, and by the time she was 7, she had begun shooting in competitions. She beat out adults and racked up awards and sponsors that provide her with everything from ammunition to firearms. She even has a legion of followers through her YouTube channel and Facebook fan page, which she updates with all things Shyanne.

Shyanne’s father, Dan Roberts, has been guiding her along in her shooting career from the first day she learned how to shoot, making sure she is being safe. He said he realized his daughter had a real talent for the sport when she first started shooting.

“When they start calling their shots and they tell you where it’s going to hit before they do it -- that’s usually a pretty good sign,” he said.

Dan Roberts said Shyanne's mother, who was a shooting instructor when their daughter was born, "was fully supportive of it when Shy first started training."

Most recently, Shyanne competed in an all-female shooting competition, Brownell’s Lady 3-Gun Challenge in Covington, Georgia, the very first all-women three-gun competition in the United States.

As the name suggests, it’s a shooting competition where women shoot three guns -- a rifle, a shotgun and a handgun -- in a series of timed stages that test for speed and accuracy. Shyanne was the youngest shooter at the event in which more than 200 women shooters took part in the week-long competition.

For many of the shooters at the 3-Gun competition, it was a family affair. Tom Stewart and his 12-year-old daughter Maddie drove in from Wisconsin to compete.

“It’s a rare sport that a family can do together,” Steward said. “This year I think we’ve shot 22 matches together, seven of them out of state. ... This is one of the few where we can actually compete together and against each other.”

Like Shyanne, Lena Miculek Afentul, a top female shooter, started competing at just 8 years old.

“I don’t think you can establish an age on it because no child is the same maturity,” Afentul said. “As long as they are mature, they’re safe ... I don’t think there should be an age on it.”

Competitive shooting, which has traditionally been seen as a sport for men, is quickly changing. Interest among women and young people is surging. According to 2013 survey commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation that analyzed shooting participation from 2008 to 2012, 37 percent of new target shooters were female, and 66 percent of new shooters were between the ages of 18 to 34 years old.

“Girls can do whatever boys can do,” Shyanne said.

And gun manufacturers have followed suit, marketing special firearm models with smaller frames and in custom colors, like pink and purple. In addition to her shotgun, Shyanne has a custom-built purple camouflage AR-15 rifle and 9 mm handgun.

“[The 9 mm] does have a little bit of recoil, so it does come up a little bit,” Shyanne said. “But if you keep your arms locked and lean into it, it doesn’t lock you back.”

But not everyone is happy about the trend.

Leah Gunn Barrett, the executive director of New Yorkers against Gun Violence, said gun sellers are trying to market to women and children to reach new profit opportunities.

“They know the gun market is declining and they have to create new markets for their products,” she said. “Assault rifles are made in pink and purple and different colors to appeal to women, as are handguns and other weapons, so this is purely marketing on the part of the lobby because they know the market is declining otherwise.”

This Black Friday was a huge day for gun sales. FBI officials said their Criminal Justice Information Services Division system processed 175,754 gun transactions on Black Friday -- the second highest day for overall transactions in the system’s history.

The law requires background reviews to be completed within three business days. If the government fails to complete a background check on time, a buyer is allowed to make their intended gun purchase anyway.

Lisa Marie Caso of Caso’s Gun-A-Rama in Jersey City, New Jersey, said his gun sales were up an estimated 25 to 30 percent on Black Friday.

Shyanne, who recently got a new gun for her birthday, said handling guns can be "scary," but she's also confident in her skills.

“It is scary when you are going into guns that are very powerful but ... if you learn how to handle them right and not hurt yourself it’s not scary at all, it’s actually pretty fun,” she said.

But even with proper training, accidents with guns still happen. In August, a shooting instructor at an Arizona range was killed when a 9-year-old girl shot a fully automatic machine gun under close supervision.

Thirty states do not set a minimum age for possessing a long gun, meaning a shotgun or a rifle, including Arizona. While there are no current federal laws prohibiting children from shooting ranges, many gun control advocates believe there should be limitations placed on how old a shooter is and the types of firearms they are able to use.

“Children are small, they're not adults, they don’t have the physical strength and necessarily the coordination to handle very, very powerful weapons, which is what these weapons are,” Barrett said.

Shyanne said she has not shot a fully automatic weapon yet. But she has been very vocal this past year about her stance on guns, testifying to the New Jersey State Legislature in March against the state’s controversial A2006 bill, which aimed to place limits on high-capacity magazines for rifles. The bill was passed by the New Jersey Legislature, but later vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.

In addition to continuing her success, Shyanne wants to be an example for others. “I’m here to say that kids and guns don’t always mean bad things and I’m trying to reinforce that kids can shoot if they get taught the right way,” she said.

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