A high school in North Carolina has opened a shooting range for its students. Members of the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program at Smithfield-Selma High School can now perfect their marksmanship at the school’s large indoor shooting range. As expected, the gun range in the high school has spurred intense debate, especially in the midst of rising gun violence in educational institutions.
The JROTC built a 1,200-square-foot, six-lane, indoor shooting range at Smithfield-Selma High School over a period of five months and began using it last week. The program managed to secure funding for the indoor shooting range from North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Donations from the two institutions helped pay majority of the construction costs involved in setting up the precision shooting range. The shooting range at the high school as well as majority of the supplies approximately cost about $10,000.
What will the students use to practice their shooting skills? Many experts have pointed out that gun ranges at high school is a very bad idea. Given the rising instances of mass shootings in schools and the added danger of students carrying lethal weapons, it is simply unwise to offer these impressionable minds a venue to improve their marksmanship without leaving high school premises. Apart from the risk of nurturing a lethal killer, many have questioned about the immediate safety of other students due to the presence of firearms on campus.
However, the JROTC program has been designed with safety in mind, stressed the authorities. All local JROTC programs use Daisy pump air rifles, which is a general term for single-shot,.177-caliber air rifles. None of the trainees are ever handed high-powered rifles which can be dangerous in the hands of a rookie and downright lethal in the hands of a trained shooter. Moreover, students aren’t allowed to shoot bullets. None of the air rifles are loaded with bullets. Instead, the trainees practice on non-lethal pellets.
Apart from the use of non-life-threatening weaponry, all the cadets must undergo extensive training before they can participate in the activities at the range, reported Fox News. Speaking about the program that’s bound to invite criticism and controversy, Commander David Wegman said the following.
“There’s a marksmanship safety test they have to take, and they have to get a 100 on it. In addition to that, they have to sign a safety pledge, get permission from home and then finally demonstrate on the range that they know how to handle one of these air rifles safely. The procedures that we have in place ensure that we do the same thing, the same way, every single time.”
Chief Hobbs, one of the instructors to the JROTC program, added that the high school is in the process of hiring a shooting team. Even he stressed the importance of safety, noting, “Precautions and training minimize the chance of injury.”
Speaking with WRAL, JROTC cadet Timothy Jones agreed that safety is a priority on the range.
“You go out there, and you’re relying on others. You have to have the trust in others that they are handling a weapon, that they are not going to harm you, and you’re not going to harm them.”
There are just four JROTC cadets that are formally trained to use the shooting range deployed at the high school, but Wegman is confident of getting all seniors in the JROTC trained as well as certified to use a precision firearm by next fall.
Amidst the rising incidents of gun violence on campus, experts stress it is not the guns, but the art of conflict resolution that should be handed to the students. Many argue guns and shooting ranges aren’t meant for high school students as these ranges teach a violent skill.
[Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images]