John McCoy is the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette’s award-winning outdoors writer. His "Woods & Waters" page appears weekly in the Sports section of the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
In 32 years of outdoors writing, John has had articles published in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, Hatches and other publications. His works have earned more than 50 state, regional and national awards for writing and photography.
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This week’s column is a bit of a rant — a rant against the politically correct but misguided effort to deprive 125,000 youngsters from London the opportunity to watch shooting sports at next year’s Summer Olympics:
That high-pitched whistle you hear is steam shooting from my ears.
Just when I thought the anti-gun crowd couldn’t get any more absurd, the organizers of an effort to provide kids with tickets to next year’s London Summer Olympics went and proved me wrong.
London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, wants to make up to 125,000 tickets available so young Londoners can share in the Olympic experience. The giveaway will extend to every Olympic sport – except shooting.
Reporters for the London Evening Standard quoted an unnamed administration source as saying, “We decided it would not be appropriate. It’s the only sport children will not be able to go to as part of the Ticketshare scheme.”
So, let me get this straight. Internationally sanctioned rifle, pistol or shotgun competitions are “not appropriate” for young eyes to see?
Oh, that’s right. Heaven forbid that they should watch people shoot at inanimate targets; better they should watch some shoot-’em-up crime drama on the BBC.
Heaven forbid that they should see people handling firearms in a safe and responsible manner; better they should learn the finer points of gun brandishing from some rapper’s cop-killa video.
Heaven forbid that they should watch athletes exercising the sort of transcendent skills that come only from countless hours of disciplined practice; better they should gain inspiration from the brick-throwing slackers who instigated the Tottenham riots.
I suppose the Brits’ paranoia toward firearms shouldn’t bother me, but it does. After all, there are people in the United States who would like nothing better than to do away with private gun ownership, and the London Ticketshare shenanigans will almost certainly be tried here as soon as an opportunity arises.
When you’ve lived as long as I have, certain things stick with you.
In 1984, while attending a football game at Mountaineer Field, I watched and cheered as West Virginia University rifle coach Ed Etzel was given an SUV for winning a gold medal in the 50-meter prone rifle event during that year’s Los Angeles Olympics.
Political correctness, though present in other areas, hadn’t yet been used to tamp down Americans’ enthusiasm for firearms. University officials at the time were more than happy to reward Etzel for his skill with a rifle.
I wonder if today they’d extend that same appreciation toward current rifle coach Jon Hammond, a world-class shooter with 2012 Olympic potential. They might, but frankly I doubt they would. Their attitudes toward firearms became achingly apparent in 2003, when they eliminated the school’s rifle team and only reinstated it under extreme pressure from the state Legislature.
The Educated Elite’s attitudes toward guns didn’t change overnight, but rather were shaped by a constant media drumbeat of anti-firearm reporting. Examples are legion, but the one that stands out most in my mind came during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
NBC provided the broadcast for those Games. Rather than televising any of the shooting events – which admittedly aren’t terribly exciting to watch – network moguls sent veteran commentator Dick Enberg to the shooting venues to do a pre-packaged “wraparound” segment for one evening’s broadcast.
Long story short, it was a hit piece. Instead of focusing on the extreme discipline, muscle control and hand-eye coordination successful shooters must have, Enberg focused on the shooting events’ lack of apparent physical activity.
The “kicker,” or close, of Enberg’s piece showed precisely how he felt about the shooting sports. With stentorian eloquence, he declared that most of the Games’ sports embody the Olympic motto, “Faster, higher, stronger,” but then added that for shooting sports, it should be, “Slower, lower … weaker.”