(NY) Shooting groups cry foul over ESG cancellation


March 31, 2003, 08:20 PM
Shooting groups cry foul over ESG cancellation


The abrupt cancellation of shooting sports by the Empire State Games could be a straight bottom line decision - or an example of politically correct antigun sentiment.
I'd like to believe Fred Smith, the Games' executive director, that it was purely number-crunching, but after talking to some of those affected by the cancellation I wonder if their view is not without merit: That New York's bureaucrats - ruled by downstate antigun politicians - are trying to deep-six anything to do with firearms.

In November, coordinators for the various sports got the go-ahead for the summer Games to be held in Buffalo July 23-27.

Then, on Valentine's Day, Chuck Meyer of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association (shooting coordinator for those events) was told shooting sports were canceled - in part due to fiscal constraints.

"It was like the Valentine's Day Massacre," he said.

Meyer said his association and other groups, such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Rifle Association, would be willing to help underwrite the events' cost, if they were told how much money was needed.

"We were told there was no mechanism in place for that," said Thomas H. King, association president. Last year the association bought a $3,000 ad to support the games. They say they would do more, if allowed to.

Only about one-third of the $3.4 million annual cost of the Games is underwritten by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which runs the Games. The bulk of the money comes from corporate sponsorships, shrinking due to a shaky economy, Smith said.

"I was told to trim $200,000 from this year's budget and chose the least-attended sports: shooting, water polo, fencing and open (adult) women's field hockey," he said. "Scholastic field hockey remains in the games.

"The purpose of the Games is to encourage athletic competition by New York State residents, particularly the youth," Smith added. "I don't have it "in' for shooting or fencing or water polo. This is bottom-line number crunching."

Participation is down. In women's adult field hockey some regions cannot even field a squad. Water polo was being played by kids "who got cut after the swimming tryouts, and fencing is not practiced very much except for some private schools," Smith said.

The 2000 shooting tryouts saw 349 people from all regions try for all the shooting disciplines. In 2001, that number dropped to 289 and in 2002 an even 216 tried to make the regional teams. Last year Western New York fielded just 32 shooters at the tryouts; New York City had 11.

According to King, that's proof that New York's strict gun laws make shooting sports very hard to pursue. For example, no one under 21 can have a handgun license, thus "youth" cannot compete. And for Olympic-minded New York City residents, obtaining even a rifle license is difficult, let alone finding a place to shoot.

Paul Borkowski, a longtime rifle coach at Alden High School, notes that scholastic shooters are thin on the ground because schools are dropping the sport.

"Long Island used to have 40 high school teams teams and now has five. This region had 18 teams when I started coaching, today there are seven."

One reason is the cost of making shooting ranges compliant with new environmental lead rules. Besides having to clean sand traps that catch spent bullets, new air exchange and filtration units must be installed. Those can cost at least $50,000.

Orchard Park's 17-member team shoots at the Buffalo Rifle and Revolver Club; Iroquois, with about 20 members, shoots at Ten-X Club; Kenmore East and Kenmore West each have about 15 members and share one range. Lancaster High School still has a range - and 40 students on its team. Clarence rebuilt its range three years ago and also has about 40 members; and Alden, currently refurbishing its range, has 32 members.

"Shooting sports are the most expensive to put on," Meyer said, "and I am sure there are rationalizations for cutting them. In fact, I heard two years ago that shooting would be out in a few years - even though we have been charter members of the Games and produced Trina King, who made the U.S. shooting team at the Sydney Olympics."

The only sport in this region with fewer competitors is rugby - which is being "encouraged" to stay in the games, as is Biathlon, in the less-expensive Winter games, Smith said.

When he called Meyer, the coordinator had already traveled here from his home near Albany to arrange for the venues: running target and air gun at Allied Sportsmen, free pistol and women's sport pistol at Tonawanda, small bore rifle at Elma, and rapid fire pistol at Lockport.

Those clubs would have earned about $2,000 in rental fees between them. Security for guns and shooting cases would have been provided (at some cost), moving targets rented and paper targets provided. Shotgun events would have been at Buffalo Shooting Club, and might have added $3,500 more, as clay targets are expensive. Add some dorm rooms and meals for the scholastic shooters (adults usually pay for their own motels and meals) and that's it, Meyer said. Shooters provide their own guns and ammunition, by far the greatest cost.

In total, the shooting sports might have cost $15,000 to stage. Even doubling that sum for the cost of one-day regional tryouts would fall far short of the $200,000 Smith has been told to shave.

More painful is that shooting organizations were told they could do nothing to help with costs: The decision had been made, and was irrevocable.

This scenario reminds me of the saying: "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it probably is a duck." A politically correct duck, at that.

"After these games are over," Smith said, "I'd be willing to talk with the (shooting sports) representatives to try to reinstate at least some of these events for 2004."

Is that a real offer, or just a duck, quacking?


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Standing Wolf
March 31, 2003, 08:46 PM
There's no assault too large, nor any too small for the leftist extremists to bring to bear against the Second Amendment and those who choose to exercise it.

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