ROCHESTER, Minn. — A growing number of students in Minnesota are participating in competitive shooting as young people across the country push for stricter gun laws.
The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League added 15 to 20 teams this year, the Post Bulletin reported.
A big contributor to the league’s popularity is its safety record, said John Nelson, vice president of the USA High School Clay Target League and head of the Minnesota league. The league has had no injuries from firearms, despite more than 42,000 children participating since it formed in 2001, he said.
Students must complete a Minnesota DNR’s hunter firearm safety course or go through the league’s Student Athlete Firearm Education certification, said Tim Gerber, the head coach for Mayo, John Marshall, Century and the Rochester homeschool teams.
“The No. 1 goal is safety,” Gerber said.
The league emphasizes safety over scoring, said Doug Courneya, a coach whose daughter, Ashley, participates in the league.
“One thing about the league, we take anyone,” he said. “As long as they demonstrate they can be attentive and safe, there’s no prerequisite as far as shooting ability. We don’t turn kids away.”
The league offers an alternative after school activity for students who don’t participate in other sports, said Ashley Courneya, a senior at Mayo High School.
“I think there’s a lot of kids who never thought they’d be in a high school sport, but they’re excelling at trap,” she said, “even though, maybe like me, they can’t catch a ball to save their life or run.”
Ashley Courneya said she doesn’t support the recent nationwide demonstrations against gun violence.
“I think a lot of the stuff that’s going around says guns are just meant for killing people,” she said. “I don’t kill people; I kill orange targets.”
She said she hopes more people will go out to the range, learn about gun safety and see that the competition can be fun and a way to make friends.