School shooting teams making a comeback

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Shooting teams such as this one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are gaining in popularity. Photo via Washington Post

Let us face it; youth that are not exposed to the shooting sports grow up to be adults who don't hunt. Sadly, for generations, the country's youth have been left alone to gravitate towards electronic pacifiers and away from the traditions of the clays stand, bench rest, and hunting field.

Why does this matter?

Firearms education and the shooting sports reduce gun accidents and passes on this ancient activity to today's youth. To keep this age old and time-honored tradition alive, young people need to be educated and involved in safe, regulated hunting and shooting.

Just as recently as the 1960s, most elementary and middle schools allowed local game wardens or law enforcement officials to come into the classes and give firearms safety and hunters education to children. Then by the time these same budding shooting sports enthusiasts reached high school, odds were their was an opportunity to join the campus small-bore or clays club then compete against other area schools own teams. These same youth accompanied their fathers and uncles into the field, first for small game then for larger and anxiously awaited the day when they would get their first rifle or shotgun of their very own.

Then came the counter culture shift of the 70s and the draconian gun laws and media messages of the 80s that vilified not only firearms but also the shooting sports as a whole. This resulted in fewer new shooters, which amplified over time, as those children who did not receive the tribal gun knowledge, became adults who were afraid of firearms.

Many parents today, having no gun history to fall back on other than Hollywood, would never dare give a gift of one to their children. Some states have made it illegal for youth under 16 to even purchase a BB gun.

Well it seems like in some cases, that trend is being corrected.

Minnesota

In the land of 10,000 Lakes, they are soon to have a high school clays enthusiast behind each one. According to the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MSHSCTL), they now have some 8,600 registered student athletes representing 243 trap shooting and 25 skeet shooting high school teams for the upcoming 2015 spring season.

“Last year, 6,100 student athletes participated in the spring league,” said Jim Sable, Executive Director of the MSHSCTL.

Now if the huge jump from 6,100 scholastic clay team members in 2014 to 8,600 this spring sounds impressive, just think that in 2010 the state had under 400 and let your jaw drop.

“With the addition of 83 new teams, the expansion of existing teams, the increased capacity of shooting facilities, and the addition of the new spring skeet league are some of the factors attributing to the continued success as Minnesota’s fastest-growing high school sport since 2008," said Sable.

MIT

College teams across the country are ramping up their intermural offerings to include rifle and pistol teams through the help of grants and support from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. One of these is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who now has a varsity team that competes in NCAA sanctioned shooting events. The school is offering shooting classes that fill up in minutes and regional championships have swelled from handfuls of competitors to more than 700.

Moreover, student sharpshooters, who once had a dim general take on firearms, are changing their minds.

“I had a poor view, a more negative view of people who like guns than I do now,” Hope Lutwak, a freshman on MIT’s pistol team told the Washington Post. “I didn’t understand why people enjoyed it. I just thought it was very violent.”

What can you do?

The Boy Scouts and 4H still offer marksmanship training, but a lack of certified instructors willing to donate their time has limited their once huge and popular programs. Likewise, school districts, many of which have never had shooting teams in modern history, need advocates who will help organize, raise funds, and support their local students.

No matter what you do, grab a hold of that youth in your life, pull them out from behind the video games, and talk to them about shooting and hunting. The traditions you save are yours, and it is up to you to pass them on.