Straight shooters: Student trapshooters not fazed by gun debate
WEST FARGO—They stand five at a time in a small room at the Red River Regional Marksmanship Center here, facing a blue sky mural with unloaded shotguns at the ready.
After each person takes a turn yelling "pull," a virtual clay pigeon rises from the housing of a trapshooting simulator and the shooter takes aim and fires.
Through special equipment attached to each gun, the simulator gives instant feedback as to whether the shot was a hit or miss.
Austin Scott, a sophomore at Fargo South High School, was pleased with his first outing.
"I shot 23 out of 25, which was pretty good," he said.
At a time when the country is transfixed by the tragedy of school shootings and a debate over gun control, students in the area are gearing up for a competitive season that's all about guns.
High school trapshooting clubs begin outdoor training in early April, and some are getting a jump start with the trap simulator recently installed at the West Fargo indoor range.
Coaches and range volunteers say safety is paramount; some call trapshooting one of the safest high school activities offered.
Participants must earn a Firearms Safety Certification. There are strict rules prohibiting guns and ammunition on school property.
The action stays at the shooting range. For all F-M-area high school trap teams, that happens to be The Shooting Park in Horace, N.D., the site of the state tournament June 16.
Mark Sahli, who coaches the trap team at West Fargo High School, said he knows of no recorded accidents among teams in North Dakota or Minnesota.
"I'd rather be around some of these kids with guns than some other kids without them," Sahli said.
New team on the block
The buzz about trapshooting at Fargo South started weeks back.
It was the only high school in the F-M area that did not have a trap club.
"I kind of got really excited because this is something I like to do on the weekends. It's fun," said junior Jordan Reihe.
Kari Scott knew her son Austin was a pretty good shot, and she decided to take on the job of organizing a team.
"Why not bring boys and girls together, into something that's very fun, very competitive and safe? So, I got the wheels started," she said.
Brian Rosenkranz volunteered to coach at the urging of son Connor, who also joined the team.
"I really want to get out there and have some fun, and be safe," Brian Rosenkranz said.
The South team has 15 students signed up, and like most trap teams in North Dakota, offers up the activity to boys and girls, grades 7 through 12.
Sam Haskin, a senior, is the only girl on the team at this point.
She grew up around guns and hunting.
"I find it kind of stress-relieving, almost. Just going out and shooting at the shooting range just kind of eases everything away, I guess," she said.
No tie to gun debate
The trap team members are well aware of the ongoing gun dialogue.
On March 14, the day many students nationwide walked out of class to send a message that school shootings should not be tolerated, around 175 South students took part in a short, silent walkout. It's unclear if any trapshooting team members took part.
Haskin said a debate about gun control recently took place in her government class.
She doesn't see a reason to tie trapshooting to those conversations.
"It's not like we're bringing our guns to school or anything. We're meeting outside of school," Haskin said.
Sahli has been involved in youth trapshooting for years.
He has 31 students on his team at West Fargo High School and said they have the opportunity to earn a letter for trapshooting participation.
Fargo South students don't have that option yet, but coach Rosencranz is excited to see what's ahead for future trap teams.
"I'm really hoping that it grows to be what it can be," he said.