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The Decline of an Olympic Sport Among U.S. Colleges:

The S.F. Chronicle reports:

USF, its men's and women's rifle teams relegated to using air guns in Memorial Gym, has dropped the sport....

USF was one of 33 schools still fielding NCAA rifle teams.... [The USF Athletic Director Bill] Hogan also cited the difficulty of finding opponents with only six schools west of the Mississippi River with teams. No other West Coast Conference or Pac-10 schools have rifle teams....

Hogan said it was impractical to field a team because of a scarcity of quality rifle ranges in the Bay Area. He said the school had been trying -- unsuccessfully -- for the past seven years to raise the $1.5 million he estimated it would cost to build its own competitive-level range....

Thanks to reader Peter Buxtun for the pointer.

Ian (www):
I'm not sure what the story is here.

It's a shame that students who want to participate in college sponsored target shooting will not have that opportunity. But I suspect that they would be equally disappointed in their quest for a college luge team, or that college sponsored figure skaters are few and far between.

Just because a story involves guns doesn't mean that it has broader implications.
2.24.2006 7:56pm
Albarello (mail):
He said the school had been trying -- unsuccessfully -- for the past seven years to raise the $1.5 million he estimated it would cost to build its own competitive-level range....

The market giveth, and the market taketh away.
2.24.2006 8:18pm
TomMH (mail):
My apologies for commenting off topic... BUT...

I was just flipping through the channels and came upon Andrew Napolitano on Bill O'Reily. And in the caption underneath his name was written: "author of the book 'The Constitution In Exile'".

Of course, the ACTUAL title of Napolitano's book is "Constitutional Chaos."

Ha - is someone at Fox trying to keep this so-called movement going? And has Napolitano since joined the conspiracy?

Watch the re-run at 11pm if you want to see it.
2.24.2006 8:22pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
Just because a story involves guns doesn't mean that it has broader implications.

true, but after 12 years of liberal indoctrination courtesy of the teachers unions, how easy do you think it is to scare up a teenager who doesn't think GUNS ARE BADDDDDDDDD?
2.24.2006 8:51pm
Albarello (mail):
after 12 years of liberal indoctrination ... how easy do you think it is to scare up a teenager who doesn't think GUNS ARE BADDDDDDDDD?

I guess retailers have a really hard time selling copies of GTA: San Andreas or Unreal Tournament to teenagers, thanks to the same efficient indoctrination.
2.24.2006 9:08pm
John Thacker (mail):
Incidentally, rifle is the only sport which has an official NCAA championship which is contested in a purely co-ed manner. There are plenty of men and women competing, and they do so on an entirely equal basis. (Both men and women have won the individual titles, and the teams are mixed-sex.)
2.24.2006 10:18pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Shooting will never be accepted as an olympic sport until it has had at least one totally crass, selish, and preferably criminal scandal. I suppose steriods and doping are out, given its nature.

Compare the soccer hooligans to the national shooting matches, where the closest thing to disorder may be some audible whispers of "Sempi Fi," etc.
2.25.2006 1:19am
Pete Stephenson (mail):
Wait...what? No suitable ranges? I call BS.

There are literally more than two dozen rifle/pistol ranges in the greater Bay Area. Coyote Point, a range where I volunteer as a Range Safety Officer (I make no money, the range is non-profit and run by the sheriff's office, so I have no financial interest in it), is only about 15-20 minutes from USF by freeway, and would be more than adequate for their needs (the range offers NRA Highpower, Falling Plate, and other matches). Chabot in the East Bay is about 30 minutes from USF and could readily accomodate their needs.

There's plenty of places to shoot in the Bay Area, and I suspect that quite a few would be more than willing to offer discounts or other perks for an academic team.
2.25.2006 2:57am
DJW (mail):
Despite the huge number of gun owners, the US has consistantly underperformed in international shooting competitions. Perhaps this situation would change if the ARA would put some effort and investment into this instead of lobbying. I would even venture that increasing the popularity of the sport would be a much more effective form of lobbying.
2.25.2006 5:14am
Brett Bellmore (mail):
I agree with Pete; This sounds like nothing more than an excuse to get rid of the non-PC team. Not only are their convenient ranges, but I recall no particular effort to raise the sum among the natural market for such a plea, gun owners.
2.25.2006 7:45am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Shooting will never be accepted as an olympic sport until it has had at least one totally crass, selish, and preferably criminal scandal. I suppose steriods and doping are out, given its nature.

Actually, I don't know about the summer olympics shooting competition, but the biatholon (the combination of cross-country skiing and shooting) is constantly being wracked by doping scandals. Of course, when you are trying to bring your heart rate from 160 or so to 45 in a matter of seconds (which biathletes do), drugs can be very helpful.

As for whether colleges produce good shooting competitors, I think you will find that most of the countries that field the most competitive shooting teams draw their teams from the military, and this is also true for the United States. This is also true of the more exotic olympic sports that have very little connection with the military arts.
2.25.2006 9:33am
Mikeyes (mail):
The NRA has nothing to do with international or Olympic level shooting competition and has not been involved in years, USA Shooting is the national governing body and it is not affiliated with the NRA. The US has consistently done well in rifle and shotgun competitions and not only have over 90 medals since the inception of the games, but also is ranked number three in medals behind track and field and swimming. Where we fail is in pistol shooting because a) there are very few international competitors (and a very small contingent of hopefuls) and b) there are very few international style matches held in the US.

NCAA rules mandate shooting air rifle and air pistol mostly because it is a lot cheaper to do so and there are far fewer local regulations involving air weapons (the feds don't even consider an air rifle a "firearm", rather it is an "air valve" for purposes of transport and mailing, except on airplanes where air valves are dangerous.) Nonetheless, a range that meets standards has to have proper lighting, safety features, and precise distances. I know there are ranges in SF that meet these standards, but I am willing to bet that the USF rifle team is not the number one priority of the athletic department (basketball is) and unless the team can help finance its venue, the AD will not be very helpful. After all $1.5 M is a lot of money for a limited use facility that doesn't add to the coffers. And the AD would probably have concerns about liablility at an off campus facility (and there may even be NCAA rules about this sort of thing.)

I too and sad that the team can't operate at USF. But I don't see a nefarious plot here. After all, MIT has a pistol team and they are in the heart of deepest MA. The reasons it is failing are the same reasons that Weber State doesn't have a synchronized swimming team, no money, no interest, no place. Minor sports always get screwed.

I say this with sadness because I have been an active participant in international shooting both as a competitor and as the team physician from 1980 to 1984. The college teams are one of the prime sources for international competitors (the service teams and athletes in residence at the Olympic Center are the others) so it pains me to see what is happening at USF. If you are willing to help, go to USA Shooting (http://usashooting.org/) and help out.

BTW, there have been "doping scandals" in shooting. The use of alcohol and beta blockers have been outlawed for shooters for decades. These drugs, along with a few others, enhance the ability to shoot. In addition, modern shooters are fit athletes who have to have both general and specific fitness and strength so the option of steroids is not out of the question. The old USSR and DDR were past masters at this back before the wall fell.
2.25.2006 9:40am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Oh come on, nobody but the most radical gun-control nuts wants to ban target shooting. I am a pretty strong gun-control advocate.

I don't see any reason why an ordinary citizen needs to own a handgun for self-defense and believe that strict registration and control of guns is neither unconstitutional nor a threat to freedom that will it lead to some horrible crime wave. I have no problem with hunting or recreational shooting. The notion that strict registration and the generalized right to use guns for self-defense is a dangerous notion somehow leads to a complete ban on guns and shooting sports is ridiculous. To disprove this notion you need go no further than the majority of nations that have strict gun control laws yet have citizens that love to hunt as much as your average good 'ol boy from Alabama and kick our ass at shooting sports in the olympics.
2.25.2006 9:45am
Mikeyes (mail):
Freder,

I'm not trying to be a smart-ass here, but what countries are you talking about? The only country that I can think of off hand that has strict gun control, open hunting so every "good 'ol boy" can hunt as he pleases, and has won Olympic medals is Canada and the Olympic shooting gold was won in the 1984 Olympics by a woman.

Recreational shooting of the kind found in most European countries is quite expensive. You have to belong to a shooting club, your guns have to be sequestered at the club at your expense, and because of the small market, weapons and ammo is very expensive. Reloading is usually not allowed as that is considered a revolutionary action by most of these governments.

Hunting is even more expensive as hunting rights are in the hands of a few wealthy land owners and in some countries, such as Germany, you practically have to have a masters degree in ecology before you are allowed to hunt on your own.

The upshot is that if the regulations you are considering go into effect, only rich white guys (or the equivalent) will be able to participate in recreational shooting or hunting. It's the same thing that happens with concealed carry laws - an automatic economic discrimination occurs because in order to spare "recreational shooting" there has to be a massive control effort to determine who has the weapons and what they are doing with them. Not only will this be universally intrusive, but very expensive and the latter is more likely to cause problems for most people who want to have fun shooting on a casual basis which is what most recreational shooting is about in this country.
2.25.2006 11:46am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Hunting is even more expensive as hunting rights are in the hands of a few wealthy land owners and in some countries, such as Germany, you practically have to have a masters degree in ecology before you are allowed to hunt on your own.

I don't know how Australia's shooting teams do at the Olymics, but that is another country with fairly restrictive gun control laws and a hunting tradition. The expense of regulation of hunting is more dependent on the availabilty of open spaces and population density than the regulation of firearms. Hunting is expensive in Europe because there is precious little land to hunt on and precious little habitat to sustain populations of game. As for maintaining competitive shooting teams on the international level, back in the Cold War days, the best teams came from the countries with the most restrictive gun control laws on the face of the earth.

Granted, hunting on your own is practically impossible in Germany, but hunting is still very popular, and considering the extremely dense population in Germany and other places in Europe, allowing uncontrolled hunts would be an invitation to disaster, both to the animal and human populations. But it is very popular among the rural population, even with the expense and the regulation and the need to be accompanied by the local game manager. When I lived in Germany, the local woods were full of deer stands and many of the U.S. Army personnel (both civilian and military) I worked with often went on hunting trips with the local hunting clubs, so it was certainly not out of reach of your average citizen.

Europe has been "civilized" a lot longer than the U.S., and there has been very little open land in Europe for a very long time. Hunting is a rich man's sport in most of Europe mostly because it is traditionally a rich man's sport, not necessarily because of regulation.
2.25.2006 12:26pm
Ellen Dahlgren:
Feder Frederson said: "The notion that strict registration and the generalized right to use guns for self-defense is a dangerous notion somehow leads to a complete ban on guns and shooting sports is ridiculous."

Here's why I disagree:

1. In Massachusetts, the target pistols used in Olympic competition are illegal. With the limited market for such expensive firearms, the manufacturer does not find it worthwhile to submit them for "safety testing," which is a destructive process.

2. Until it was amended, the California "assault weapons ban" also outlawed these pistols because their magazines are located outside the pistol grip.

3. The "smart weapons law" in New Jersey will outlaw these pistols when it becomes effective.

4. The UK olympic pistol team must practice outside the country.
2.25.2006 3:15pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
Hunting is expensive in Europe because there is precious little land to hunt on and precious little habitat to sustain populations of game.

hunting in europe was, is, and will remain in the realm of the aristocracy, and that is why it is expensive and limited.
2.25.2006 5:17pm
Mikeyes (mail):
Feder,

You are correct, of course, that hunting in Oz is popular and as an added bonus, the Aussies did very well in shotgun during the Sydney Olympics, but international style pistol shooting is at a standstill because even air pistols are highly restricted and virtually no one is able to shoot well enough to be world class. Australia has a differentiated gun control in that respect, you can hunt which means that you can own and practice with your shotgun or certain rifles, but handgun ownership is very limited and oppressively so even if you are a registered target shooter.

Shooting at the Olympic level is not recreation, it is a full time job, and only those few highly motivated athletes can even make the team. In this country recreational shooting is much more ad lib and would not be allowed in most countries as having fun with pistols totally banned either because it is viewed as criminal (or revolutionary) or because of poulation density.

In Germany the US troops were usually in a special category for hunting due to the relationship we had that country (which was friendly) that was not the same as the normal citizenry. To be fair, In Germany if you are really interested in shooting or hunting and are organized and registered, you can pursue those avocations. On the other hand, the State of Wyoming with 1/30th of the population of Germany (and three Olympic gold medal winnners in rifle) probably has three times the guns in the hands of private citizens without any more problems as far as law and order go. (Of course that is a very bad example, and probably means nothing, but has the virtue of being true .)

The restrictions you advocate will still change the whole fabric of recreational shooting in the states and is most likely not going to happen universally or quickly if at all. It is not that simple.
2.25.2006 5:53pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
On the other hand, the State of Wyoming with 1/30th of the population of Germany (and three Olympic gold medal winnners in rifle) probably has three times the guns in the hands of private citizens without any more problems as far as law and order go.

Well considering there is noone in Wyoming to shoot, and that the most wreckless gunowners in Wyoming now live in Washington and tend to go hunting in Texas, it is no surprise that that there is little gun violence in Wyoming.

I am just tired of hearing how gun control inevitably leads to horrible consequences for recreational shooters without the least shred of evidence. And by the same token that there is any connection between the ownership of guns and increased personal safety or a freer society. Eugene raves against the improper use of statistics yet there is not a shred of valid statistical evidence that supports either proposition. If the NRA really cared about recreational shooting they would be pumping some of their considerable warchest into funding team shooting competition instead of fighting every gun control regulation, no matter how minor or reasonable.
2.25.2006 7:32pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't see any reason why an ordinary citizen needs to own a handgun for self-defense
An "ordinary" citizen? Do you think that there are different classes of citizenship, ordinary and, er, extraordinary?

As for not being able to see "any reason," I think you've answered the question: "...for self defense." It's one thing to argue that the costs outweigh the benefits, but how can you possibly argue that the reason doesn't exist when you just stated it? You can't conceive of any situation in which a handgun might allow a person to defend oneself?

And by the same token that there is any connection between the ownership of guns and increased personal safety or a freer society.
You don't see a connection between a government "allowing" people to do something and a freer society?
2.25.2006 8:58pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
The Massachusetts situation is basically as Ellen Dahlgren has stated. We are in the process of amending the law (Ch 180, passed in 1998) that effectively prohibits most target pistols in MA, but the legislative process is slooooow.

The MA law requires that 5 guns of each model be drop-tested onto concrete from one meter up without accidentally firing, basically impossible for most ultra-sensitive target pistols, not to mention destructive of the guns which can cost up to several thousand dollars each.

Interestingly, the former MA Attorney General (Luther Scott Harshbarger) instituted a set of "consumer protection" regulations about the same time as Ch 180, supposedly to protect against fraudulent practices in gun sales, but which are actually back-door gun-control laws (not voted by the legislature) which have nothing to do with fraudulent practice. In those regulations, there is an exemption for handuns specifically designed for target shooting. Unfortunately, the statute (Ch 180) trumps the regulation, so it's meaningless.

That's not to say that the regulation has had no effect, however, as a gun dealer in Waltham has been advertising and selling high quality target pistols for years. His attitude is basically: the AG intended to exempt these types of guns, and so I'm going to sell them, and I'm 77 years old, and do you really want to take me to court and look like a bunch of fools when the stupidity and discrepancy in the law hits the front page of the Boston Globe? So far, the answer is no, and he has gotten away with it. to the annoyance of other gun dealers (including this writer) who have more to lose if prosecuted....

In the meantime, the MIT Varsity Pistol Team (another sport where men and women compete equally on the same team) was national collegiate champion last year, even beating the military academies.

Due to the USA's freedom of gun ownership, many more olympic shooters come from civilian gun clubs abd college teams, not just the military, than in many other nations. The military has an advantage, of course, in that it can assign a good shooter to a "Marksmanship Training Unit" where their two jobs are to learn to be better shooters and to develop improved marksmanship training methods. It's sort of a "dream job" for a shooter!

As for the use of guns for self defense, I would hope that few readers of the VC are of the mistaken belief that guns are not eseful and effective for this purpose. We see all sorts of rigged statistics on this. For example: "more people are killed by criminals than criminals are killed by gun owners." This totally misses the point, which is that most defensive gun use does not result in the death or injury of the criminal, or even in the gun being fired. The estimated number of incidents of defensive gun use in the USA is between 1 and 3 million per year; if all of these had resulted in a fatality or injury, believe me, we'd hear about it!

Brooks Lyman
President, MIT Pistol &Rifle Club
Cambridge, MA
2.25.2006 9:53pm
Mikeyes (mail):
Congratulations Brooks, on the MIT win. I always loved to work with MIT shooters when I was involved in the Olympic movement, they brought a fresh perspective (and long hair) to the whole process and were pure shooters who reveled in the skills it takes to be the very best.
2.25.2006 10:12pm
slav (mail) (www):
But it is very popular among the rural population, even with the expense and the regulation and the need to be accompanied by the local game manager. When I lived in Germany, the local woods were full of deer stands and many of the U.S.
3.1.2006 2:45am