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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.

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    • Not so. In Feb 2012 a writer at “The Week” (Bloomturd magazine) wrote an article called “Gun Control: A Movement Without Followers”. He may not work there anymore but neither may this guy.


      • He’s back. But I’ve heard from someone in his organization that his writers can write anything they want — as long as it’s not about Bloomberg. He’s off limits.

  1. If it meant starting or preserving a shooting sports program at my community’s high school, I would vote for a millage or bond proposal.

    Progressives have been taking over our education system in order to indoctrinate kids with their beliefs. It’s time we took a piece for ourselves. The most effective way to turn people to the pro gun side is to get them to start shooting.

    • A new generation of freedom fighters against governmental, political intrusion, in thought and action?

      We can only hope this is so, and I don’t simply mean resistance by force of armed rebellion.

      Hopefully not simply too little, too late.

  2. I read the article and you’re right, it’s surprisingly good. Regarding supporting this through higher taxes, how about setting up a foundation or something similar, to provide the funding to the school? The more we control our money and the less the government is empowered to take it from us, even for something we support, the better.

  3. Haveing lettered in high school in small bore marksmanship, I think it’s great. And yes, I would pay more to keep it alive.
    I was too small for basketball, football, etc… Shooting was perfect!

    This is neat that there is a resurgence.

  4. Their attempts to weave in their gun-control talking points is at times as comical as it is transparent. While shoe-horning in the debunked “study” regarding the danger of a gun in the home, the story almost begrudgingly admits that the competition thus far has a perfect safety record: no safety incidents whatsoever.

  5. I think it should support such shooting sports due the lifelong skills acquired. If they can’t find it in their budget (and I think they get enough money as it is), then I’m sure donors and sponsors could easily be found.

    • Maybe the guy who shares his name with the publisher of this article could front some of the cash. After all, this will teach safety and it is, literally, for the children.

      • Blahpony,,,,,,you are killing me. Bloomie springing dough for a pro-gun situation?…………BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHHAHAH. OK…..
        I can breathe again

  6. An increase in taxes for shooting sports? No….. Just do what is done for other sports programs. Find sponsors and have a boosters program. A lot of people will WANT to support this without being COMPELLED by the government to support it.

    • My thoughts exactly. I don’t trust the funds would get to the schools for shooting without going through a few pockets first. But if schools would bring it back and make it known, I’d chip in several cases of shells to the cause.

    • I think this is the right idea.

      First, I think we need a national organization – maybe the NRA or the NSSF or a new .org – to collect some seed money and do the things that would support local initiatives. Literature, promotional strategies, talking points; that sort of thing. This organization should try to avoid going so far as to fund guns, ammunition, teachers, ranges and so forth.

      Second, wherever there is a local interest group, they call the national org and get the start-up kit. The locals rustle up the local money and other resources (e.g., time on a range).

      Third, maybe guns, ammo and accessories companies will kick-in to sponsor regional and national meets.

      If this is an idea whose time has come then we PotG ought to jump on the opportunity before it evaporates for want of public support.

      • Shelby County, TN (Memphis) has a trap league for the high schools. They compete (and practice) a the Memphis Sport Shooters Association (private club – I’m a member) facility in Lakeland, TN. The club donates trap time and clays, and several other local organizations, like the Fayette County Friends of the NRA, also help to support the activity. There are about 15 HS teams in the county. As far as I know they are entirely self-funded and don’t use any school funds.

  7. I was surprised by the $700,000 cost to renovate the range, but considering they spent almost $110 million renovating the rest of the school, that’s a drop in the bucket.

      • 10x more expensive that there is any excuse to be, but even then, $70K is also way too much…

        What’s it made out of, lead-plated gold?

        • It’s an indoor range. The ventilation system was going to cost about $660K. And yes, that’s what a big system is going for these days, especially one in a school.

        • I’d wager that of that 660K$ that 85% is due to EPA bullsheet.

          Lawyers and bureaucrats will be the death of this country.

        • Ventilation and sound proofing aren’t cheap. My gun club had to struggle with that on our indoor range. We still get complaints periodically about from some of the neighbors, but so far the county has been good. It’s usually the some person/people that complain.

          The HVAC system was a nightmare, as the contractor that originally did the refit did a horrible job, then went out of business. so we had to find another engineer and contractor and do it all over.

    • “700K to renovate a high school rifle range?”

      The ventilation system alone can’t be cheap, let alone to run.

      If this is a northern climate a lot of expensive heated (or chilled in the South) air is going to be exhausted outdoors.

      And you just know EPA lead regulations will likely mean a LOT of expensive heated air.

      The ‘Damn kids are too coddled’ side of me says make ’em practice outdoors in cold/heat.


      • See no reason why the range needs to have temperature conditioned air.
        Weeds out the slackers.

        Have classes early morning in hot season and put some auxiliary radiant heaters over shooter positions in winter.

  8. This makes me think of some conversations I used to have with this statist moron I used to be friends with. He’d make some really asinine post on facebook about guns. It was very literally just reposts from CSGV. Usually the really stupid post too. They guy would make some stupid statement that was patiently false. I’d hit him back with some actual facts, and he’d go off on a tangent about how the anti’s were going to change the culture and make everyone hate guns.

    And that’s kind of what this entire thing is about, at least IMHO. To me it reads like an attempt to drive up fear and panic over the very idea of shooting sports by using children.

    • “I’d hit him back with some actual facts, and he’d go off on a tangent about how the anti’s were going to change the culture and make everyone hate guns.”

      It’s kinda hard to make people hate guns when their favorite actors are in movies where the hero saves the day.

      They are trying to make guns like cigarettes while Hollywood glorifies them.

      They’re unable or unwilling to make that connection. This is why Hollywood is one of our greatest (albeit unknowing) allies. And that’s cool with me…

  9. My high school had a rifle range — in New York City — but it was eliminated when the administration expanded the pool facilities. At that point, riflery was changed from a school team activity to an after-school club activity. The only real change was that I couldn’t get a letter for making the rifle team once it was a club activity.

    • We had a rifle range above the pool. I just never linked up with the riffle team as i was on the swim team.

  10. I wish my high school had a shooting team of any kind because i dont get to shoot enough and it would give me an opportunity to hone my skills. It would be really fun too.

  11. i shot on the plum high rifle league(other side of pgh) and lots of the people on the team hadn’t really shot before. they all enjoyed it and tried out for the team every year. they redid the plum range some 10 yrs ago(shortly after i left) and the main expense was keeping the lead bullets and any lead in the air outta the school. that’s probably what was costing so much(if i”m remembering right their range was twice the size of plums). and every neighborhood is 30 min or less from another lol

    • The article notes that the cost of the air handling equipment was about $660K. Indoor ranges are a bitch to vent.

      • That must be a Huge Range for that kind of dough, we spent much less than that this past winter for our new set up.

  12. 700k sounds like a lot, perhaps they could negotiate that down or NRA or a Manufacturer could step in and subsidize that cost a bit? It’s a worthwhile investment and would give the kids a good place to safely enjoy what is really an enjoyable sport and hobby (without the long drive). It’s great to see this resurgence. Perhaps I’m a little partial. I started shooting in the BSA and quickly took #2 in the State Competition. It taught me a lot.

  13. I do not support higher taxes for anything.

    I would much rather see the kids and parents foot the bill. They could go out and earn the money needed through work or donations. I feel this way about all school sports and extra curricular activities.

    Save the tax money for education and maintenance of the schools.

    With that said I give out money to every kid that comes knocking at my door for donations for band, football camp and what ever else they are in need of funding.

  14. The article referenced, no matter how “positive” still contained the following idiotic statistic: “gun-owning households are at higher risk of homicide and suicide by firearm”. DUH…car owning families are much more likely to die by care wreck, people on sleeping pills are at higher risk of suicide by sleeping pill, pit bulldog owners are at higher risk of getting bitten by a pit bulldog.

    Where do these idiots come from? Are we sure they were born here?

  15. My high school in Brooklyn NY (1962) had a rifle team. That used bolt action rifles. I have a picture in my year book. I tell anti-gunners, that is the preferred weapon of a sniper. Were we being indoctrinated to become snipers. Call it what you want, it’s still a rifle. And lever action rifles were called repeaters. Does that mean it’s a machine gun?

  16. I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities we have to cement 2nd Amendment rights in the hearts and minds of our youth. I had no idea that any schools had shooting sports left either as a lettered sport or club. This is an outstanding development that the NRA and any other organization should jump on.

    I graduated from Mt. Lebanon in ’68’ and remember the girl who I think won state. I can still see her photo in the year book. But I thought the team sport was long gone. Good to hear that it has been kept alive. Awesome.

    I for one, plan to bring this article to our school board to start some dialogue around bringing shooting sports to high schools. I would go a step further and introduce tactical shooting USPSA style. If high school students think clays are “cool” you can imagine what they would think after a round of steel.

    I don’t have my hopes up but this could really be cool and how ironic that its Bloomberg. I does almost make you wonder what is up. LOL.

  17. My favorite shooting sport by far (but haven’t found one I don’t like). To folks that don’t shoot trap I explain that “It’s kind of like Golf but with Guns”. I can’t think of a better way to get our youth involved. I watch the High School club practice once in a while and it’s a thing of beauty. You can see the empowerment on the Kids faces. The discipline, the determination and the joy of hitting that clay, hearing it POP as you turn it into dust in midair (Top that PS4!!!). Don’t think more taxation is the best route though. They could repurpose some existing funds (they could with good leadership), get companies to sponsors, ask for donations, and hold fund raisers.

  18. When I was in high school (5 years ago), my (private) school had a sporting clays team which compeated against other private schools. We even had an annual sporting clays tournament on campus. I am glad to see that the sport is growing beyond private schools.

  19. It’s not making guns cool. Guns are already cool.

    There’s a reason why the neighbor kids (back when I had neighbors) called me “sir” without even asking, and their parents couldn’t get them to do more than give them the finger…

    Guns teach responsibility and maturity. You can’t NOT step up with a gun in your hand.

    As corny as it sounds, it’s true; with great power comes great responsibility.

  20. I about fell over when I learned that the local HS had a GUN (trap) program. Huge booming program in Iowa also. Hope this is not confined to the Midwest. My son shot with them in 8th and 9th grade. They even transported their shotguns on the big yellow public owned school bus to the state meet.

    No firearms allowed on the school ground (naturally) so the kids had to park their transport off of school property(abandon their shotguns for the day).

    The ranges are typically (or always) owned by the local private trap club who run the program. $1/ round for birds and supply all their own equipment. Program put together by the trap club greybeards. The gov’t (and the Catholic) school just has to “tolerate” it. They nominally sponsor it.

    You want an gov’t activity to stick their nose ($) into a firearms program? I say no keep all gov’t out of it.

    Side not a HUGE school archery program out here in flyover country for 5-8th grade. They shoot in the public school gym as league and also for PE class. Again organized/coached by the local club.

  21. Manufacturer sponsorship. Bulk purchases. Re-appropriate funds. Or, just keep letting the private schools do it because they don’t suck. Send your kid to private school. Or, home school and shoot in your back yard…

    • You hit it Bob! Many shotgun only shooters have no problems at all with highly restrictive gun regulations as long as their once a month out of the cabinet shotgun remains in their hands.

  22. I’m currently on my highschools rifle team. I wish we had trap because it would be more fun since I am more of the sporty type but shoot every day after school for free has really helped me become a much better shot and small bore teaches very good discipline and marksmanship. It is also weird walking into school with our rifles when we had an away match and a couple schools we shot with still had ranges at their school that we shot at so not all schools are as bad as some that have made the news in the past. I hope it continues.

    • Good for you Cole. Like the young man in the story, my athletic career was cut short (or so I thought) by an injury in my early teens. I went into high school with no ability to compete in sports. As luck would have it, my school had a shooting team and I joined. I got pretty good and ended up lettering (like Tom on OR!). I was fortunate to get a scholarship to a nationally ranked college. I am convinced that the shooting program kept me out of trouble. Some of my grade school and high school friends didn’t make it out of high school. Cole, you can go as far as you want. Like the young man stated, “Lots of practice”!! Glad to see programs thriving for youth shooting sports.

  23. If a school can have a pool, gymnasium, track, football field, two baseball fields and a soccer field like mine did, I don’t see why it can’t have a rifle range or at least a team that practices at another range. Our golf team practiced at the municipal golf course for free, something similar could easily exist with a local range.

    I attempted to get a rifle team started at my high school but could not get a faculty adviser. The technical high school in my town had a team for sometime and that same year the sister high school in my town was able to start a rifle team.

  24. Don’t worry. The Department of Education will find a way to put a stop to any official school shooting clubs. Federal regulation require that all teachers and coaches have a masters degree in the subject or in coaching (hence the rise in on-line Masters in Coaching degree programs)
    All they will do is say that no shooting coach may be hired or appointed that does not have a masters degree in coaching shooting.
    Coach Belichick could not even work as a high school football coach when he retires from the NFL, even as a volunteer because he does not have a masters in coaching.

  25. As a high schooler I would love a high school shooting team. I think the NRA should try to market these to schools and help financially back them. They should start in gun friendly states and try to get past the antis wall of hoplophobic hatred.


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