With the U.S. Olympic shooting team recently wrapping up its most successful Olympics in more-than a half century, one unmeasurable effect of the team’s performance could be a strengthening of the Second Amendment.
“We had one of the best performances since 1964,” Matt Suggs, CEO of USA Shooting, the national governing body for the shooting sports, said of the successful performance. “We’ve had two other Olympics where we’ve had six medals. But with this group, it was a little more gold, a little less bronze, so it was a good Olympics for us.
“We’re leaving here on a high note. Our world rankings for a lot of our shooters have gone up significantly in the last six months, so we’re leaving here with world rankings that we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s probably the best this team’s been in a while. We brought 20 shooters here, and eight are going home with medals. That’s a great outcome for us.”
Suggs believes that great performances at the Olympics are very important to the continuing growth of the shooting sports. And since there’s strength in numbers, more shooters equals more support for the right to keep and bear arms.
“The United States has a very vibrant Olympic program,” he said. “Each year that we come here and compete against the best in the world on the biggest stage in sports, it creates enthusiasm and excitement about the shooting sports.
“Since we’re one of the first events to medal, we get a huge amount of coverage over a short span of time. And this year it was even more so. We won three gold medals right out of the gate, and some of the other teams in other sports weren’t producing medals. So, what ended up happening is we had our first five medalists on the Today Show. In fact, we were on the Today Show like four days in a row. That’s something we don’t normally get.”
Of course, Olympic shooting sports are just a few disciplines among the wide variety of shooting sports enjoyed by millions in the United States. Successful Olympic performances lead to growth of that segment.
“Coming in here and medaling in the Olympics and showing people what the pinnacle of our sport is about is really critical,” Suggs said. “The United States is sort of unique in that we have to compete against a lot of really great shooting sports with big followings. We have to get people to come over to shoot the international games. So being successful in the Olympics is a big part of that effort.
“It gets people excited about the international disciplines of rifle, pistol and shotgun that a lot of people wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.”
Suggs also believes Olympic medals lead to more young people gaining an interest in guns and shooting. By youngsters seeing the safe, fun use of firearms on television rather than just the constant negative stories about guns on the nightly news, they learn about an activity that might be right for them.
Since there is strength in numbers, more shooters means more support for the Second Amendment, which currently finds itself under heavy fire by President Joe Biden (D) and anti-gunners in Congress.
“Competitive shooting sports in the Olympics have traditionally been sort of a gold-standard example of responsible firearms ownership,” Suggs said. “I think those of us that are enthusiastic supporters of the Second Amendment know that target shooting is not what the Second Amendment is about. But with more people that we get out there competing in the shooting sports, we can build a larger community of people that think about the Second Amendment and that support the Second Amendment.”
Suggs believes it’s possible that given the record gun sales of 2020 and early 2021, the Olympic shooting competition this year and the expanded media coverage it received might have an even larger impact than in year’s past.
“The other thing you see is that there were 8 million new firearms owners last year,” Suggs said. “As more people go out and buy firearms for the first time, the support for the Second Amendment is going to grow.”
Suggs notes that those who enjoy the shooting sports need to realize that although the members of the Olympic shooting team have returned home to the United States, Olympic shooting is far from over for the year.
“We’ve got the Paralympics that start here in about two and a half weeks,” Suggs said. “That team comes in here around August 20, and we’ve got some great shooters on that team. We’ve got seven athletes who have qualified that will come in here and compete in the same environment that this Olympic team was competing in. And we’ve got a really strong teams—seven athletes that frankly all are capable of medaling.