This year, for the first time, Le Roy High School has fielded a team to compete in trap shooting competitions but if a Downstate assemblywoman has her way, it will be their last.
Assembly Bill 10428 is aimed directly at high school shooting competitions and courses that teach gun safety where students handle weapons. It would prohibit high schools from participating in all such activities.
"This (trap shooting) is what I do so it turned my gut when I heard about it," said Jacob Armitage, a senior at Le Roy, who along with Zachary Boneberg, helped get the team started. "I didn’t like it but some people’s views are different than mine."
The Le Roy team has 10 volunteer coaches, all experienced shooters from Le Roy, and they both practice and compete at Oakta Fish and Game Club on Circular Hill Road in Le Roy. The team is sanctioned by the New York State High School Clay Target League.
Before yesterday's competition, Bill Fox, one of the coaches and local president of SCOPE, told the team members they need to write letters expressing how they feel about the proposed bill so he can distribute them to members of the assembly.
"This is your future," Fox said. "It’s not mine or the other coaches. It’s yours. If you let this happen to you, and it’s been happening over the years, going back 50 years ago or before, they’re just going to keep taking. We can’t allow this to happen."
The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, who represents a district in New York City. The bill would also ban high school archery.
Fox said the kids and their parents need to speak up because Downstate politicians don't care about the interests of rural New Yorkers.
"That’s what they’re ripping apart right now, the Constitution, our Bill of Rights," Fox said. "They think we should live the way they do down in New York City. They just don’t think that anybody should be allowed to carry a firearm at all."
Armitage and Boneberg first proposed the school join the Clay Target League last year and the board was ready to approve it but the team couldn't find a faculty-member coach in time for the season. This year, they had more time to get things together and start the team.
They said they did it because hunting, target shooting, it's who they are.
"It brings us all together," Armitage said. "I don’t play sports, personally. This is what I do. I shoot. I’ve been shooting as long as I can remember. It’s my get-a-way, is the best way to put it."
Boneberg can't compete this year because it conflicts with his commitment to the National Guard but he said he's pleased to come out to the range and see so many kids participating in a team sport they clearly enjoy.
"I thought this was a great thing for the kids," Boneberg said.
The team competes in a conference with six other teams: Alexander, Gouverneur, Marcus Whitman, Midlakes, Taconic Hills, and Webster Schroeder. During the regular season, teams shoot at their home range and scores are tallied by a computer to determine winners. The top teams will be invited to compete in a statewide competition in June.
Other Genesee County teams are Elba and Byron-Bergen, according to the league website.
Thomas Mellon said people who are against high school students participating in firearm sports really don't understand guns or the people who are attracted to the sport and what it can do for them personally and socially.
"It’s just like anything else," Mellon said. "Forget the guns. Forget anything like that. It’s a club. It’s a team, and it brings people together. There are people here, they have nothing else to do. This is what they do. This means a whole lot to them and to us. It’s almost like a family.
"It’s important to us," he added "We feel it promotes character, team building, leadership, and it also teaches us how to properly and safely use guns so there never is an accident.
Mellon has been shooting since he was nine and his father is one of the team's coaches. He emphasized the range is a safe place for everybody there.
"Everyone is starting to believe guns are the problem," Mellon said. "As we're proving here, as you can see, everyone is safe, our muzzles are all down range; we have not had a single safety incident because if you teach someone how to safely and properly use a firearm they are not a danger. Everyone thinks we just need to take them away, but really, you need to teach, everybody needs to know, it’s not a bad thing. It’s not spooky scary."
NOTE: The link to the bill above is actually to the Senate page on the legislation, which allows for public comment.
At yesterday's competition, Genesee County SCOPE presented a check for $662 to the students from Le Roy High School who organized a "Hometown Heroes" project.
The students raised money to buy banners to hang in the Village of Le Roy with pictures and names of Le Roy residents or high school graduates (regardless of hometown) who are serving active duty in the military.
The students researched the project, including determining material and costs and presented the idea to the Village of Le Roy Board, which approved hanging the banners once they're ready.
In the photo are members of the students who participate and SCOPE members. Holding the banner are Courtney and Quinn Kacur. On the banner is a picture of their brother, Reed Kacur.