By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
You may have heard the recent story about the trapshooting team at Big Lake High School in Minnesota that was initially excluded from having a photo in the yearbook because their team photo included their equipment, shotguns.
Of course, no school in America would ban a yearbook picture of a field hockey or lacrosse team showing team members holding their sticks, let alone a baseball team where bats may be shown. What is it about trap guns that made them so scary?
The school athletic director defended this decision, citing a district blanket policy that forbids guns in school photos – period. The policy was established to prevent students from trying to include inappropriate individual photos, including those with firearms, in school publications. The policy did not provide an exception for sanctioned school activities or sports.
So, after the collective effort of coaches and team members, and an overwhelming show of community support, logic and common sense prevailed and the district reversed its decision. We commend all involved. The district simultaneously changed its policy regarding firearms in school photos. The district’s decision was made a lot easier because high school team shooting sports have grown greatly in popularity in the upper Midwest. In fact, Trap shooting is the fastest growing high school sport in Minnesota.
Being a part of a sports team is a unique and valuable part of the educational experience. Students benefit in a variety of ways, learning how to take directions and work for a common cause. In the case of the shooting sports, participants don’t have to be the strongest or fastest in their age group.
Learning to shoot well involves discipline and teaches life skills, as such organizations as 4-H and the Boy Scouts have long demonstrated. The Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, in its own words “… provides student athletes aged elementary through college with a supportive environment where shooting sports serve as catalysts for teaching life lessons and skills that emphasize positive character traits and citizenship values. Throughout all training, practice and competitions, we continue to instill in our participants a commitment to safe firearm handling, teamwork and leadership.”
For youngsters involved in the shooting sports, there is no controversy. They know the activity they enjoy has nothing to with the criminal misuse of guns. Even mainstream media reporters who have looked at the growing popularity of the various shooting sports for youth have come away accentuating the positive.
The lesson here is to speak up for our sports. Those who would reflexively question them because they simply don’t know better or have a mistaken policy in place can probably be educated. That’s what we saw in Minnesota. It’s worth the effort. Those who oppose our sports because they have a political agenda to advance and see what they think is an easy opportunity for quick publicity need to be confronted and can probably be beaten.
At NSSF, we will work to educate and we will confront, as necessary and as the situation dictates. It’s what we mean by Promote. Protect. Preserve.
Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel.