Shooting club gaining popularity at Northeast Ohio high school amidst gun control debate
NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH -- Shooting clubs are quietly gaining popularity at high schools as a divided country fights over how to prevent school shootings.
Trapshooting is one of the country's fastest growing sports.
We found one of these clubs right here in Northeast Ohio.
Trapshooting is a club sport in our state.
North Ridgeville High School has the first team in Northeast Ohio, and other schools are looking into starting one.
While some people love the idea, others think guns and schools shouldn't mix.
Fifteen-year-old Nikki O'Grady has been shooting guns since she was 6.
"Multiple different types of rifles, handguns, shot guns. You name it, I've probably shot it," she said.
This is the North Ridgeville freshman's first year in the high school's trap club.
"Having fun, just need to get my score up," she said.
She's proving it's not just a sport for the guys.
There are three other girls on the team.
"Gotta show the guys we're better!" O'Grady said.
The goal of trapshooting is to shoot down moving clay pigeons with a shotgun.
USA High School Clay Target League explained it best in a video, saying "the league is open to boys and girls, in grades 6-12, who've earned their firearm safety certification. Practices and competitions are held weekly at a local gun club, under the supervision of trained coaches and volunteers."
Trapshooting and safety
The guns are never on school property.
Nikki's dad Brian says they take gun safety seriously.
"Chamber's always open so everyone can see that it's unloaded. Everybody watches how the guns are handled," he said.
Dan Saylor is the trap head coach at North Ridgeville High School.
One year into the program, they already have more than 30 students on the team.
"I taught for 32 years in another school district, and guns and schools don't go together. Most of the time the administration doesn't like guns. But in this case here, they approved it, they thought it was a good idea, and they went for it," Saylor said.
USA High School Clay Target League says there has never been an injury at a high school practice or competition anywhere.
Saylor holds safety briefings before every practice.
"It is the safest high school sport that there is. We don't have ACL injuries, twisted ankles, we don't have concussions," Saylor said.
But that's not enough to convince Rosie with the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence that clubs like this should be associated with schools.
"When I think of a high school club that teaches kids how to shoot a moving target, I think, how can they possibly know whether or not they're training somebody who might do harm to themselves or others?" she asked.
Rosie says she's not against trap shooting clubs, she just doesn't think they should be affiliated with schools.
She questions why shooting clubs like this are growing in popularity.
"But why now in the schools? Don't the schools have enough to worry about, without wondering whether or not someone in their club they might be training somebody who shouldn't be trained," she said.
Using tax records, the AP found about 500 schools received more than $7.3 million dollars in grants from the NRA from 2010 through 2016 to promote shooting sports.
"The biggest concern I have is that kids can get guns. And people need to be securing them," Rosie said.
She also worries about students getting hurt when they're not at the supervised shooting range.
"Simply the more guns you have, the more accidents, the more likelihood of suicide, which is a big deal," Rosie said.
Brian O'Grady knows this sport is a lot more controversial than other sports his daughter Nikki has played.
He has this to say to concerned parents: "Come out and do it yourself. Get out here and see what it's all about."
The North Ridgeville High School trap team receives no grant money from the NRA or anyone else.
It's all funded by students and parents.
The coach says the NRA waived membership requirements for them, so students do not have to be a part of the NRA to participate.
NRA and school grants
Cleveland19 reached out to the NRA to find out more about grants they provide to schools across the country. This is the NRA's response:
Regarding grants, they come from The NRA Foundation. Since establishment in 1990, The NRA Foundation has awarded nearly $369 million in grant funding in support of the shooting sports. These grants provide essential funding that benefits programs such as youth education, law enforcement training, hunter education, conservation, firearms and marksmanship training and safety, and much more. Often, school and community shooting sports programs are the recipients of such grants. Grants are provided when organizations prepare request proposals and send them to the Foundation, which are then reviewed and awarded based on said review.
The NRA was founded to promote responsible, skillful marksmanship in 1871, and that tenet remains central to all that we do today.
Jason J. Brown, Media Relations Manager
National Rifle Association of America
Are surrounding schools interested in trapshooting?
Cleveland19 called six surrounding schools districts on the west side near North Ridgeville and two school districts in east side suburbs.
Olmsted Falls City Schools say they have not received any requests to start a trapshooting club and Avon and Avon Lake do not plan to add a club like this.
Mentor Public Schools and Chardon Local Schools say they haven't heard of any interest in the sport.
The rest of the school districts did not return our phone calls.
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