Pro-Marksmanship Letter to a High School Superintendent
Yesterday I sent this letter in to the superintendent of the Fall Mountain school district, which sits two districts to the west of mine in New Hampshire. The Army Junior ROTC program at the high school planned to practice marksmanship in the school cafeteria using air rifles. This type of makeshift range is common and safe, and allows students access to firearm safety and marksmanship training. I heard the practices had been delayed due to complaints, so I took action. If you are a resident of Fall Mountain school district, consider writing in, too!
Dear Ms. Landry,
I felt compelled to write to you after hearing a report on NHPR about the Fall Mountain High School marksmanship program. I am a lifelong competitive marksman in the sport of air rifle, having competed at the high school level in Virginia, at the collegiate level at MIT, and internationally. Now I work for as a mechanical engineer in the firearms industry, where I can put my expertise in both marksmanship and engineering to use. I am in support of the marksmanship program proposed for the Fall Mountain Junior ROTC program and I would like to share three reasons why.
Reason #1 air rifle marksmanship is good: It is safe. The shooting sports in general and air rifle in particular is safer than most sports offered in high school. I have personally never witnessed a firearms injury on the air rifle range, the injury rate for air rifle marksmanship nationwide is .0017 per athlete exposure per year (reference) over the last decade. Comparing that rate to the overall high school sports related injury rate of 2.09 in 2016 (reference), air rifle is incredibly safe.
Reason #2 air rifle marksmanship is good: It teaches skills that benefit athletes in the classroom and on the job. Concentration, positive self-talk, perseverance, discipline, gender equality, and team work are all taught through high school marksmanship programs like that offered by the NROTC. I directly credit the skills I learned on the range with my success academically and professionally. Thanks to discipline, focus, and time management that I learned through target shooting, I maintained a 4.9/5.0 GPA at MIT (the #1 school in the world in 2017) while participating in a NCAA sport, sorority, and several other activities on campus. I have written about this on my blog, and I encourage anyone curious to find out more about how marksmanship develops these skills to read these articles: Motivation vs Discipline, Follow Through, and Shooting Sports Are the Best Sports.
Reason #3 air rifle marksmanship is good: It is truly coed and gender/ability equal. In the NCAA and in national-level competitions, men and women compete side by side. There are no divisions by gender. Women and men win national titles in about equal numbers, with women winning slightly more titles recently than men at the NCAA level. What other sport can claim that? I am a female engineer, and for the entirety of my career I have been in the minority in the workplace. I learned from the shooting sports that compared to my male coworkers I can perform well at work as well as on the range. Beyond gender equality, marksmanship programs are truly for everyone of any ability and size. Para-athletes find a home on the range, where they can work side by side with other marksmen. For more information on gender equality in the shooting sports, see these articles: Shoot Like a Girl, Shooting in the Paralympics, and NCAA Rifle 2017
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, I am happy to do so. Air rifle marksmanship is a safe, non-violent, skill-building activity and I hope the students of Fall Mountain will be allowed to benefit from the JROTC marksmanship program without delay.