They’re not taking a knee or making headlines for their social commentary. In fact, they’re not garnering a lot of headlines at all, but Olympians Will Shaner, Amber English, and Vincent Hancock are proving themselves to be the best shooters around with record-setting performances in Tokyo.
On Monday, English and Hancock captured gold medals in the women’s and men’s skeet competition , just a day after Shaner brought home the gold in the men’s 10-meter air rifle competition.
All three set new Olympic records with their shooting skills, but outside of NBC’s broadcast coverage, I’ve seen more media interest in the U.S. women’s gymnastics team’s early struggles than the gold medals for American shooters.
One exception; the left-wing media outlet The Guardian, which couldn’t help but add some culture war controversy to its coverage of the dominating performance by the U.S. athletes.
It was a banner day for the sport in the US at the Asaka range on a mosquito-ridden complex bisected by overhead power lines, adjacent to a military base 15 miles north-west of central Tokyo.
Shooting’s Olympic existence began more glamorously at the first Games in 1896 when Olga Constantinovna, Queen of the Hellenes, fired a ceremonial first shot with a flower-draped rifle in an Athens gallery made of pristine white marble.
Some 120 years later, marksmanship aficionados were treated to the slightly less refined spectacle of Piers Morgan sniping on Twitter as an American won the first gold medal of the Rio Games and USA Shooting, the governing body, firing back by accusing the gun-control advocate of trolling.
Morgan’s facile argument: it is no wonder that a country of 330 million people with an estimated 400 million guns in circulation and a serious homicide problem is good at shooting. “What we do out here on the skeet fields and on the rifle range has nothing to do with crime and violence,” Matt Suggs, the chief executive of USA Shooting, said.
The US is indeed the all-time medal leader, with roughly as many gold medals as the next three countries (China, Russia and Italy) combined. But Ginny Thrasher’s first-day success in the 10-metre air rifle was the US’s only shooting gold of the 2016 Games, while top-ranked Italy won four. Though the US has a large number of competitive shooters, they are not necessarily taking aim in the international disciplines featured in the Olympics.
This year the governing body announced a partnership with Hillsdale College, an ultra-conservative Christian institution in Michigan that accepts no government funding on principle. The college will invest $15m to become the home of USA Shooting, according to the Wall Street Journal, in a deal that includes competitions and training camps being held at upgraded facilities.
The Guardian goes on to highlight the political activism of some of USA Shooting’s top athletes, including six-time medalist Kim Rhode, who they make sure to identify as a Donald Trump supporter. The Californian is also the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging California’s ban on out-of-state and online ammunition purchases by residents, who are required to undergo a background check before every ammunition purchase.
That’s apparently too much for The Guardian. I guess the outlet would prefer athletes take a knee instead of using the courts to fight for their constitutional rights.
“We don’t tell our athletes what to say or believe, obviously, and you’d be surprised how many of our athletes have widely varying views on the political spectrum,” Suggs said. “But when it comes to ownership of firearms, because it’s part of what they do, they’re all in lockstep with the second amendment and believing that somebody should have a personal right to own a firearm whether it’s for sport, for protection, for hunting or whatever purpose they desire.”
I’m glad that Suggs pointed out that these athletes may fall across the political spectrum, but are all of one mind when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms. Some of them may be more vocal than others (and in my opinion, we could use a few more Kim Rhodes), but its good to know that when they’re not standing on the winner’s platform as the national anthem plays, they’re standing up for our right to keep and bear arms.