School shooting teams were common through most of the sixties. They suffered an enormous decline with the war on guns, beginning with the Gun Control Act of 1968, extending to the turn of the century. Now, however, they’re making a comeback.
The number of clubs are growing again, and even the Associated Press is noticing.
Their classmates took to the streets to protest gun violence and to implore adults to restrict guns, seeming to forecast a generational shift in attitudes toward the Second Amendment. But at high school and college gun ranges around the country, these teens and young adults gather to practice shooting and talk about the positive influence firearms have had on their lives.
What do they say they learn? Patience. Discipline. Responsibility.
“I’ve never gone out onto a range and not learned something new,” said Lydia Odlin, a 21-year-old member of the Georgia Southern University rifle team.
Shooting is a lifetime sport that practitioners can participate in until they’re old and gray. The interesting thing about the AP article is that it mentions the many positive aspects of the shooting sports while pointing out the fact that high school shooters learn how to be responsible gun owners.
There are an estimated 5,000 teams at high schools and universities around the country, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and their popularity hasn’t waned despite criticism after it emerged that the gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school had been a member of the JROTC rifle team. The youths who are involved, coaches and parents say there’s an enormous difference between someone bent on violence and school gun clubs that focus on safety and teach skills that make navigating life’s hardships easier.
Rifle teams used to be something governments all over the world supported. The reason was obvious. Armies with recruits that could shoot accurately had an advantage on the battlefield. In England, a personal friend told me of bicycling all over his area, .22 target rifle on the handlebars. Nobody blinked. That was then. This is now.
President Theodore Roosevelt thought children should be encouraged to learn to shoot.
“We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes, as well as in the military services by every means in our power. Thus, and not otherwise, may we be able to assist in preserving peace in the world…”
It may not be a coincidence that support for school shooting teams declined during the nuclear age. The control of nuclear weapons seemed to diminish the necessity for a nation of riflemen. But we’ve learned differently. Experience in wars from Korea to Afghanistan have validated the need for the rifleman on the field of combat.
Times change. Technology changes. Perhaps in the future, riflemen may become obsolete. But we’re not there yet. Not even close.
The virtues instilled and promoted by the shooting sports — self discipline, responsibility, control of mind and body — have always been, and always will be, valuable and worthwhile.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.