School rifle teams aren’t as common as football and basketball teams, but they do exist. It’s tricky enough to have one what with rules like “zero tolerance” that’ll punish a kid for an incorrectly shaped Pop Tart. It’s hard to imagine schools like that allowing students to physically touch an actual firearm.
But they exist.
Yet, as the media focuses a lot of attention on kids protesting guns, the Associated Press decided to focus a little attention on those who actually shoot and how these types of clubs can benefit students (emphasis mine).
DAHLONEGA, Ga. (AP) — 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.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.
The clubs use a variety of firearms — from air rifles that shoot pellets to 9 mm pistols that fire bullets. Its members invest hundreds of dollars in specialized stiff uniforms and shoes that provide stability and support for spending hours standing, kneeling or lying prone to fire at targets down range. Some have hopes of representing the U.S. in the Olympics. Some simply love the camaraderie and mental focus required.
On a recent weekend, close to a dozen high school and college gun team members gathered at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega to work with JP O’Connor, a coach affiliated with USA Shooting, the Olympic organization. For the first hour he only talks — not about techniques or scores, but about mental strategy.
“I want to encourage you to be self-aware and to be disciplined about what you’re doing,” he said. “If you are patient with yourself, life is a lot easier — or less difficult.”
There’s more to read, and I encourage you to do so.
However, allow me to just point out what most of you already know: shooting does require a lot of time and discipline to master. Yeah, you can learn the mechanics of it pretty quickly, but it takes a lot of work to become really good at it, and then that skill has to be maintained as shooting is a perishable skill. These kids work as hard as any other athlete. Their work is just different.
Further, let’s also note that these are usually not the kids you have to worry about. Yes, much has been made of the Parkland killer being part of his school’s rifle team, but he’s the exception, not the rule. Also, had the school and police done their job, he would likely have been barred from participating anyway.
I’ll be honest, I wish my son’s school had such a team. I definitely wish my school had had such a team, but alas.
These are kids like any other team’s kids. Some are excellent, some aren’t, but most are ultimately good kids–and they’re learning good things.