While the anti-gun protest marches have drawn lots of ink in the national press, Minnesota is quietly showing that shooting isn’t as demonized as the mainstream media would have you believe. Indeed, the state has seen a growing trend in the number of students who are pursuing the shooting sports on a competitive level.
The Minnesota’s High School Clay Target League’s popularity is so high that neighboring states have asked to join the league, resulting in an additional 15 to 20 teams in the league. It’s a trend that is reflected nationally, too, as the USA High School Target League reports that total participation has surpassed 20,000 students from 15 states in 2016-17. That was more than a 25 percent increase from the 15,745 shooters in 12 states a year earlier.
Even in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, the league has received has received little negative feedback. “We’ve had virtually no pushback whatsoever,” John Nelson, vice president of the national league, was quoted as saying in the Rochester, Minn., Post Bulletin. “We had one school in Indiana that was considering joining the league and pulled out.”
In response to a disturbing trend that was identified in 2000, the Minnesota state league has been working hard to get a new generation interested in the shooting sports. At the turn of the century, the state was struggling with a dwindling number of shooting ranges and an increase in the average age of shooters. The Department of Natural Resources conducted a study and noted that if something were not done to reverse the trend, the future of the shooting sports would be in jeopardy.
So the state hired a youth program director at one of its shooting clubs, and he was tasked with the job of recruiting newcomers to the sport.
Anti-gunners should take note: Since the league was formed in 2001, there have been no injuries—despite the fact that 42,000 young people have been on its rolls and pulled the trigger more than 30 million times in the past 17 years. That’s because, as is most often the case with law-abiding shooters, the No. 1 goal is safety.
One of the draws adding to the sport’s uptick in popularity is that being good doesn’t require that a shooter be taller or stronger or more coordinated than another competitor. It’s far more dependent on one’s self-discipline and focus, thus it opens the door of competition to people who might shy away from traditional sports.
While the national protests might get all the media’s attention, and while that coverage might indicate that it’s a foregone conclusion that the up-and-coming generation doesn’t care about our Second Amendment rights, the fact that thousands of students are actively shooting clay seems to prove otherwise.