The Winston-Salem Journal had a story today about a bunch of teens and near teens with guns. In fact, there were over 1,200 of them ranging in age from 12 to 18. And it was safe and controlled and educational and fun.
It was the District 7 Youth Hunter Education Skills Tournament and featured 72 teams competing to be in the state tournament. Two teams get automatic bids and the remainder hope that their scores are high enough to win one of the 22 at-large spots in the 40 team state tournament. The event is sponsored by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and was held at the Hunting Creek Preserve in Harmony, NC.
To many, the district tournament may have come at a strange time — where the words “teens” and “guns” are inflammatory at best after the harrowing school shooting in Florida last month — but the teens who competed asserted that the tragedy does not define what they do.
“There will always be bad people who want to do bad things with guns, but that does not define us,” said Spencer Ballus, one of the 52 members of Reagan High School’s shooting team. “Everyone here has a good head on their shoulders. We are conscientious, responsible and put safety first.”
The teams competed in rifle, shotgun, archery, and orienteering with the cumulative score deciding the winners.
But the tournament is largely apolitical — completed for the love of competition and the camaraderie that comes with being on a team.
“I do it for fun because I like getting to compete with my friends,” said Walkertown student Brandon Carrier, 12. “I like rifle because it’s something I grew up doing with my dad.”
(Spencer) Ballus, a senior at Reagan, has been practicing for the tournament since December and said he fell into the sport as a freshman in search of his niche.
His specialty is rifle, where he has to hit a small target with a bull’s-eye the size of a dime.
The team practices from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday in a nearby Pfafftown farmer’s field, doing occasional farmwork in exchange for use of the land.
“I’d never really been into athletics, but I thought the team looked interesting,” Ballus said. “The camaraderie is the best part. It was the best decision I could’ve made.”
I think a parent of one of the competitors hit the nail on the head.
“If we taught more about guns, I think we’d have a lot less shootings,” said parent Tony Bryant, whose son Cole Abbott competes on the Reagan team. “Instead of just playing video games, this teaches the kids to respect guns. It’s a wonderful thing.”
H/T Nathan C.