I love a bit of good news.

Minnesota youth trap shooting explodes — with help from the NRA

On opening day of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League championship, the Alexandria Shooting Park sounds like a very loud batch of popcorn. Squads of five teammates, lined up in a row, fire shotguns at blaze-orange discs streaking across the sky. “Pop!” “Pop!” “Pop! Pop! Pop!” The nine-day event, which has more than 8,000 competitors, is billed as the largest trap-shooting tournament in the country.

Clay-target shooting, a longtime Olympic sport, includes four disciplines, of which trap is most popular. Though it’s an individual sport, shooting in teams has a social aspect. “It’s like golf only louder,” says John Nelson, who oversees the tournament as president of the Eagan-based USA Clay Target League and its Minnesota chapter.

USA Clay Target League is the largest youth clay-target shooting organization in the country, with more than 46,000 members in grades 6-12. Roughly 12,000 of those participants are in Minnesota, which has teams in about 350 of its 500 or so high schools. (Football, the state’s largest high-school sport, has around 20,000 participants; boys and girls hockey has 8,000)

In just two decades, clay target has become one of the country’s fastest-growing high-school sports. And Minnesota is, arguably, the epicenter of youth trap’s nationwide boom.

Students say they develop skills and friendships through the sport. But they aren’t the only ones benefitting from the league’s explosive growth. Retailers sell more firearms and ammunition (league participants go through 350,000 cases annually) — and conservation groups get a cut of the tax on those purchases.

More controversially, the National Rifle Association stands to bolster its ranks with youth trap shooters by donating millions to the sport, unnerving advocates of gun-violence prevention.

The league gave schools the playbook for bringing together students, coaches, a gun club, safety certification, and insurance. It also facilitated “virtual” competitions (teams shoot independently at gun clubs and compare scores). “Our approach was: We want this to look and smell and taste like a high-school sport,” Nelson said. “We want kids to letter. We want kids to be recognized in the yearbook.”

Minnesota became the first state to have its high school league endorse clay-target shooting, which lent the sport credibility among wary school administrators. “If you go in and say, ‘I have a program that’s gonna involve kids and guns and schools,’ you get a lot of doors closed on you,” Nelson recalled.

John Nelson, president of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, said ”Our approach was: We want this to look and smell and taste like a high-school sport.”John Nelson, president of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, said ”Our approach was: We want this to look and smell and taste like a high-school sport.”

The kids are enjoying trap shooting.

They are outside, playing a sport, an Olympic sport, building skills and making friends.

They are learning gun safety and responsible sportsmanship.

This exactly what youth sports are all about.

I really hope more states develop programs like this.

This is how we win, by demonstrating to the next generation that the shooting sports are fun and safe.

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By J. Kb

3 thoughts on “Good youth gun news”
  1. Cam Edwards had a nice little rant about Brady et al’s reaction to this in yesterday’s Bearing Arms podcast.
    Me, I’m proud of our high school trap team. Makes me happy to see the skeet & trap ranges booked on the club calendar.

  2. School administrators are the biggest problem we face. “Head up and locked” as dad used to say… This is awesome to see, plus the huge number of participants.

  3. If you want to keep your kids safe around water, you teach them to swim. If you want to keep them safe around tools, you them them how to use them correctly. Simple enough for a child to understand.
    But, for some reason, when it comes to firearms, the idea is “pretend they do not exist.” This way, when a child does encounter a gun, they have no idea what to do to remain safe. Personally, I think gun safety should be taught in grade school. Eddie the Eagle or equivalent in kindergarten and first grade, and more in depth classes as the kids advance.

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