The sorta-secret world of New York's high school trap shooting clubs by Cam Edwards | 4:30 PM on July 22, 2023
Bernardo De Niz
We’ve written before about the trap shooting’s explosive growth in popularity in states like Minnesota, where it’s the fastest growing high school sport, but I confess that I had no idea it was so popular in the anti-gun state of New York until I ran across a letter to the editor in the Rome Sentinel. Bohdan Rabarsky, the chairman of Oneida/Herkimer chapter of SCOPE, wrote to the paper with a very good question: why hasn’t the New York State Public High School Athletic Association recognized trap shooting as an official sport?
Rabarsky explains that, lacking that designation, high schools that want to put together teams have to operate them as clubs, not official athletic programs. And despite the state’s attempt to shut the shooting sports out of official recognition, the number of clubs and participants are growing by leaps and bounds.
This is a sport that’s not only the fastest-growing sport in New York State, but the safest sport, as there’s never been a recorded injury since its inception 10 years ago.
Participants are required to take a gun safety course, be certified and wear safety glasses and eye protection.
Shotguns are kept in locked cases or at gun clubs and only loaded when it’s time to fire at a clay target.
Teams are made up of boys or girls, or can be co-ed, with boys and girls competing on the same team.
Students with disabilities are encouraged to participate, as speed and strength are not required for membership to a shooting club.
In June, the Bridgeport Rod & Gun Club held the New York State championship where more than 1,500 students participated.
1,500 kids isn’t quite Minnesota territory, where about 8,000 student-athletes compete in the state trap shooting championship, but that’s still a lot more than I would have expected. Honestly, I never even thought about any high school-sponsored shooting sports programs in New York because I figured the state would have put the kibosh on that long ago. Let’s hope that no anti-gunner stumbled across Rabarsky’s report or we may soon see legislation to that effect in Albany.
Rabarsky says that most of the clubs are in rural high schools, which may have trouble fielding football, baseball, or even basketball teams, and that trap shooting “fills a void” that would otherwise be left unmet. I’m willing to bet that there’d be interest from students in larger high schools as well, however. One of the great things about the shooting sports is that there’s generally room for everyone, at least at the high school level, so you don’t have to worry about riding the bench or never getting a chance to actually participate outside of practice. If you’re on the team then you’re competing, which simply isn’t the case with most high school athletic programs.
That’s not the only benefit. As Radarsky points out, trap shooting is incredibly safe, and teaches kids how to be safe and responsible with firearms. Do we want kids learning about guns from video games and social media, or do we want them to get instruction on real gun safety in a safe and controlled environment? The abstinence-based approach mandated by gun control activists isn’t working out that great, so why not try something that’s both educational and fun instead?
I think it’s the last part that’s a deal-breaker for the anti-gunners, who have targeted youth shooting sports from California to Massachusetts in recent years. The gun control groups make no bones about wanting fewer gun owners, and one way to do that is to discourage any and all reasons for owning one, from self-defense to the shooting sports. Many of those 1,500 kids who took part in the New York State Championship may go on to own guns as adults, for any number of reasons that are entirely unacceptable to the Shannon Watts’ of the world, who view the shooting sports a gateway drug to gun ownership.
Any attempt to gain official recognition for New York’s high school trap teams is likely to hit a brick wall of bureaucracy, but if the effort inspired other high schools to at least adopt trap shooting clubs it might be worth the effort… at least if it didn’t result in the state’s anti-gun legislative majority banning the clubs from operating as well.