COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado
To say the least, these are challenging times in the shooting sports industry following another unthinkable tragedy, this time in Christchurch, New Zealand. Every one of these high-profile, senseless killings engulfs the world in a renewed and impassioned gun debate. The inevitable result: shaming, blame-shifting and social stigma.
Sportswriter Alan Abrahamson’s latest column in 3 Wire Sports titled “At the Olympics: No More Guns” does all of that for one of the oldest Olympic sports, while adding in a blatant slap in the face. It’s an alarmist’s reaction to a sport millions of people across the globe participate in.
His column calls for the removal of shooting as an Olympic sport. This response is in defense of USA Shooting’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes as well as our hopefuls and those safely participating in this sport on a daily basis. All of them are unwillingly stigmatized because the sports equipment they use is so negatively associated with tragedy.
First and foremost, USA Shooting wishes to express its deepest sorrow and sympathy for both the victims and those families affected by this latest tragedy. There is absolutely no place for this type of violence in this world. It's unfortunate when someone’s criminal and cruel intents with firearms immediately creates a link to the shooting sports, to sportsmen, and to enthusiasts in general.
USA Shooting Team’s athletes, and those competing around the world in this sport, represent the shooting sports with class and distinction in every way and take great pride in showcasing the sport to a wider audience. This is their passion, and something they’ve been doing their entire lives. They also realize that as ambassadors for their sport, there’s a need to educate people and to create greater understanding in what they do as well as how and why they do it.
Calling for the elimination of the sport of shooting at the Olympics simply negates the universality inherent in the shooting sports today and all those participating in this sport who would be affected. This is not an American-centric sport, with limited participation. Last year, 1,761 shooters from 105 nations competed during the 2018 ISSF World Cup Series. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, 390 athletes from 97 countries qualified to participate. Nineteen countries earned shooting medals in Rio, besting sports like swimming, fencing, archery and taekwondo.
In times of tragedy, it's important to remember these Olympic athletes have no relation to the devastating things people do with firearms. They’ve chosen a livelihood in which a firearm is a desire and a necessity and absolutely value the freedom that provides them that opportunity. But, linking our athletes and our sport to every mindless tragedy which takes place is disrespectful, ignorant and in complete denial of the real problem facing today’s society. Lack of humanity is the real problem and having the sport of shooting eliminated from the Olympics is absolutely not going to fix that.
What USA Shooting does provide better than perhaps any other faction absorbed in this debate is the exemplary representation of the shooting sports. The debate of what good can come from teaching citizens, particularly our youth, about responsible gun ownership simply begins and ends with the class, distinction and principles USA Shooting athletes nationwide embody each and every day. Looking for the quintessential shooting sports enthusiast, look no farther than the members and participants of USA Shooting and their counterparts around the globe.
The representation of our sport is vast; a melting pot of cultures, character, intrigue and conviction. You’ll find all of that within the USA Shooting ranks as well. We have competitive shooters that hunt, and others that don’t. Strong military representation and roots established by 4-H, Scouts, American Legion or family bonds. USA Shooting is youthful beginnings which transform to collegiate, international, and Olympic representation all the while creating a lifelong, tireless pursuit of perfection.
There are a lot of misperceptions currently out there regarding the gun culture, but for many it’s just a way of life. Guns are part of the fabric of everyday life for our shooting sport athletes, who compete in a sport which is safe, fun and inviting. Most people who are competitive shooters, respect the sport, the game, and most importantly they respect the firearm they shoot as well as for the people around them. We question anybody who can’t go out to a gun range and have fun. That’s the way our athletes see it and that’s the way our sport is built. For our athletes, for our club members, and for our parents, a gun is the piece of equipment needed for our sport, no different than what Serena’s tennis racket is for her to compete in tennis. And with that equipment, what comes from the use of it? Unbelievable discipline, fun and opportunity. It’s nothing more than the tool used in pursuit of a dream.
We steadfastly stand in defense of our sport, our athletes, and the worldwide shooting sports community. Sterilizing the Olympic movement from the dangers and evil that lurk in the world does absolutely nothing toward solving the problems which exist. Instead, all that it means is that one of the founding Olympic sports and the Olympic dreams for many would be unfairly eliminated.