City slickers from Time magazine journeyed two hours north of Minneapolis late last summer to cover the Minnesota high school trap shooting championships, and the results are predictable.
“With the bustling crowds and flood of corporate interests (earlier, the piece lists the Friends of the NRA, the U.S. Army and “a guy selling Donald Trump T-shirts” on hand), it could be mistaken for, say, a scene on the NASCAR circuit, except that the starts are teenage boys and girls. And they’re armed,” wrote Sean Gregory of Time in “High School Shooting Teams Are Getting Wildly Popular – And the NRA Is Helping” – subhead: “high school shooting teams are growing thanks in part to the NRA.”
“That’s the entire point, of course, in a shooting competition, but there are moments when the world beyond scorecards and ear protection edges into view.” That was the moment when a coach for one of the teams saw a competing team line up for photos with their guns in hand and remarked, according to Gregory, “’Bet that one isn’t going in the yearbook.’”
This is a sport where a 98-pound girl can compete athletically on equal terms with the quarterback of the football team. And yes, there were 8,000 kids from 300 schools at the meet at the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League championships, which “bills itself as the largest shooting sports event in the world.”
And yes, “It’s an individual sport, like wrestling, that also offers the bonding and interdependence of a team” and “stars can emerge from anywhere,” including a girl in a wheelchair who earned a varsity letter in shooting – “’When you have a child with special needs, some of those things you don’t really think are going to happen,” the mom said. “She’s like the other kids, doing sports in school.”
And yes, Minnesota is “a hunting state; more than a third of adults own a firearm, and in rural areas, school attendance might dip significantly during the first days of deer season.”
And yes, they practice and compete away from school grounds because of “optics.”
But no matter where they are doing it or how much students are getting out of it – one competitor, who has gone on to the University of Minnesota, said, “I owe my confidence to trap [shooting.] It’s the best thing I did in high school.” – it’s a danger if the NRA, which was founded to promote gun safety, should be anywhere near kids or schools.
“Even as mass shootings have inspired protests and walkouts in many schools, a growing number – sometimes the same schools – are sanctioning shooting squads as an extracurricular activity,” Gregory wrote.
These teams “weave themselves into the national debate over firearms,” he wrote, because the “NRA has funded these programs” to the tune of $4 million over the years 2014-2016.
And that’s no good. “The support dovetails with the group’s original emphasis on gun safety and training. But it also aligns with the NRA’s transformation into a political powerhouse that frames firearm ownership with a defiant cultural conservatism.”
Gregory then quotes Linda Rosenthal, a Democratic state assembly member from New York City, who has proposed legislation to ban the more than 300 teams in her state.
“Anything the NRA is for I’d say might not be beneficial for society,” she says. “It’s beneficial for NRA influence and the propagation of gun use. If parents are interested in their children learning about marksmanship, they have every right to send their kids to such a program. However, schools are places of learning. They are not places to learn how to become tomorrow’s mass shooter.”
Gregory points out Nikolas Cruz, who is accused of the Parkland, Fla., high school shootings in 2018, was a member of the school’s rifle team.
He also does point out that “no scientific research shows that joining a shooting team makes you more likely to do harm with a gun,” and that more than 70,000 students have fired 42 million shots in competitions since 2008 and not a single person has been injured.