Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bucks for the Bang

Two gun-related stories caught my eye when I was blog-idea grazing last weekend. The first was on the nerves of some University of Texas professors that are on edge, now that that concealed carry on campus has gone into effect in their state. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to be in a workplace where people were packing, even if the guns were out of sight/out of mind. One professor in an article I read said that discussions in her classroom sometimes became heated, and that she did have people sign up for her class just so they could attack her ideas. She’s understandably afraid. But there’s a long way between attacking ideas and attacking the professor. And if someone’s going to use a gun when a classroom bull session gets going, they’re probably not going to bother with the niceties of whether carrying a gun on campus is allowed or not. But we’ll see.

Maybe there’ll be some instance where a kid who never would have put his Smith and Wesson in his backpack if it were against his school’s code of conduct will start doing it now that it’s okay. And maybe if the debate really becomes charged he’ll decide to do more than just shoot his mouth off. Could happen.

For me, though, I’m a lot more nervous around open carry. When I’ve been in open carry states, I really get queasy when I see someone with a gun holstered to their hip. It just seems like such an aggressive, f-you thing to do. I am never going to be comfortable in any place of commerce where anyone other than the security guard is armed.

The other story that I picked up on was on the fact that the Olympian shooters aren’t feeling much love from sponsors outside of the gun industry.

The first medal that the US won in the RIo Olympics was a bronze in skeet shooting, won by Kim Rhode, who has medaled in six straight Olympics. The first woman to do so.

But Rhode’s agent can’t get any of the big time sponsors – like Coke and P&G – to back her.

Coca-Cola Co. didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Procter & Gamble Co.’s spokesperson Damon Jones said in an e-mail the company receives hundreds of sponsorship requests so it must be selective. Rhode and other shooters on Team USA think the reason they’re passed over is obvious. The rise in gun violence and mass shootings in the US have attached a stigma to shooting as a sport, they say. So while companies like Winchester, Beretta and Otis Technology support Rhode, she doesn’t have a single sponsor from outside the firearm industry.

The same is true for USA Shooting, even though the sport has since 2000 been the fifth-highest medal producer for the US team at Summer Olympics. The very first gold medal for any sport awarded in Rio went to 19-year-old Ginny Thrasher, competing in her Olympics debut. (Source: Bloomberg)

Skeet shooting and the other firearms related events aren’t exactly considered prime for the American Olympics-watching audience. Not that I pay such close attention to the Olympics, but I hadn’t even realized that they were Olympic sports. For some reason, they don’t actually seem like sports to me. But I suppose most things related to non-sexual physical activity that’s done for pleasure and/or entertainment is considered a sport.

Thus, I’d like to propose that jacks or jump rope – the only sports, by my lax definition, I’ve been any good at – should be included in the Olympics.

Lack of interest on the part of the TV audience is one reason why the P&G’s and Cokes – who tend to glom onto the athletes in the Olympic sports we do watch: swimming, gymnastics, track – don’t sign the shooters up. The other, of course, is the negative associations that Americans understandably have with guns.

The balance beam,the butterfly, and the javelin just don/t seem to get implicated in mass murders and other crimes in the same way that guns do.

Still, I don’t really associate skeet shooting with violence, either. It seems like a pretty goofy yet harmless thing that a certain class of folks take to. When they’re not watching their cousins in dressage competitions.

Anyway, the Olympic shooters just don’t get too much financial love. Which is too bad, given that they can’t exactly perform their sports with Saturday night specials or zip guns.

Competition-level firearms price between $8,000-20,000. Between ammunition, clay pigeons and range fees, a day of training can run as high as $450. “It really adds up,’’ said Vincent Hancock, one of Rhode’s teammates. “I’ve only found two sports that are more expensive -- anything to do with a horse, and car racing.’’

Because of the contribution that the shooting team makes to the US medal totals, the US Olympic Committee does fund the sport. But it doesn’t cover all the costs, and the team and its members are looking for more bucks for their bang.

I’m no big fan of guns, but even I can recognize that shooting for sport is benign and probably fun. This is “good” shooting, and, given that these athletes are representing the country (and winning plenty of medals) it’s too bad that they’re not given a shot by the advertisers. I can understand that major consumer product firms don’t want any association with gun nuts, all those accidents in which the two year old shoots his mother, cop killings,innocent civilian killings, gang murders, assassinations, mass murders, and all sorts of other madnesses that our gun-besotted culture is so understandably known for. But skeet shooting? Come on. They shoot at clay pigeons.

Good luck getting sponsors next time, guys. Maybe winning a lot of medals will give you the ammunition you need to break through.

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