Normally, I don’t expect stories about firearms from the news agency owned by anti-civil rights plutocrat Michael Bloomberg to have anything but a negative slant. Imagine my surprise, then, to see a mostly positive article from that organization on high school shooting sports titled “U.S. High School Embrace Shooting as Hot New Sport” in my newsfeed this morning . . .
Trap shooting is the fastest-growing sport in Minnesota high schools, and was recently introduced in neighboring Wisconsin and North Dakota…. “This is the best thing to happen to the shooting sports in 50 years,” said Dennis Knudson, a 74-year-old lifelong trap shooter, after watching his grandson compete. “It’s so fun to see the youngsters stepping up. It will preserve the sport, and they’ll do it for the rest of their lives.”
High-school trap offers a wholesome marketing opportunity for gunmakers and retailers like Cabela’s Inc., which underwrite events and donate to teams. Manufacturers tailor products for smaller bodies and budgets, such as the lightweight $480 SXP Trap by Winchester Repeating Arms. The league estimates teams’ spending will top $5 million this year.
Competitive musketry dates to 16th century England and has been an Olympic sport since 1896. Today trap, a cousin of skeet and sporting clays, is as popular with Minnesota’s urban boys and girls as it is with their counterparts in rural areas, where hunting’s in the DNA. “It’s just cool, because I get to use a gun,” said Stephanie Petsilis, 17, who shoots for Wayzata High School outside Minneapolis with a $1,430 Browning BT-99 Micro.
What’s most heartening about this article is the impact that shooting is having on the young men and women who are involved. They think it’s…cool.
Zac Olson, 15, used a SKB Century III 12-gauge as a member of the Lakeville South High School team, which he joined after an injury ended a budding gymnastics career. “All you need to do is practice,” he said, wearing the team’s black-and-khaki vest. “You don’t have to be super fast or super strong.”
His mother, Courtney Olson, went from being repulsed at the thought of guns in their house near Minneapolis to buying Zac the $1,400 shotgun and a $600 Glock 17 to nurture his newfound interest in becoming a police officer. “To see your kid this happy is incredible,” she said.
Lakeville South’s top shooter, 16-year-old Andy Krebs, wore a T-shirt with a quote wrongly ascribed to Thomas Jefferson: “Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.”
The sport turned him into an ardent gun-rights supporter, Andy said. “I don’t know if I really would have been exposed to that had the team not come to the school.”
The best thing these kids are taking from their shooting experience isn’t that the sport is fun, or even that some of them are becoming supporters of the right to keep and bear arms as a result, important though those are. The most important lesson is just what Zac said: “All you need to do is practice….You don’t have to be super fast or super strong.” In other words, it’s teaching him a lesson that skills like this can be learned and improved with discipline, practice, and a little bit of humility. It’s the sort of lesson I wish I could have learned earlier, rather than later, in life, and its exactly the sort of thing that we need to be instilling in our children. For that reason alone, I think that money for school rifle teams is well-spent.
This brings me to a question I’d like to pose to our readership. I know that many of you (as I do) tend toward conservative/libertarian views on taxation, schools, and fiscal policies. I am no fan of government school bureaucracies, or the teachers’ unions, which all too often protect mediocrity at the expense of education. Despite those inclinations, however, would you be willing to vote more money — including possibly raising taxes (gasp!) to ensure that these sorts of opportunities existed for children in public schools?
Firearms, ammunition, clays, hearing protection, etc. — these aren’t cheap, and maintaining a range makes it exponentially more expensive. The Mt. Lebanon School District (outside Pittsburgh) recently rejected a proposal to renovate its on-campus rifle range due to the expense — in excess of $700,000 — of doing so. The team continues to compete, but it is renting space at the Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Sportsmen’s Club, which is a 30 minute drive from the high school. (For the record: almost every neighborhood in Pittsburgh is a 30 minute drive from every other neighborhood.) That doesn’t seem like much, but those are the kinds of things that make it less likely that someone on the fence will want to join the team. It makes it harder for people for whom resources are limited to give the sport a chance.
Mt. Lebanon is a fairly well-to-do suburb, with a relatively conservative population (the area is represented in Congress by the NRA-endorsed Tim Murphy.) It seems to me that if any school district could have made this work, it should have been that one.
Is this a worthwhile investment of the public treasury? Given that the public school system isn’t going anywhere…I think it is, despite my oft-professed skepticism of the state. Agree?
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.