Sports Facilities

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With Gun Sales on the Rise, Shooting Venues are in the Right Place

1 Jun, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

In the wake of the pandemic, outdoor sports, including fishing, kayaking, cycling, hiking and running, have gained plenty of participants. The opening of a new, state-of-the-art shooting sports complex in Palm Beach County is likewise giving hope to enthusiasts and event owners for a resurgence in that sector as well.

Can the old movie tagline, “If you build it, he will come,” help event owners build a new generation of gun enthusiasts, particularly in light of a recent uptick in gun sales? The signs are good.

According to the Town-Crier Newspaper, the Palm Beach County Shooting Sports Complex, located just east of the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, is ready for limited use after (because of COVID-19 safety measures) years in the planning.

The ADA-accessible center was designed and developed in order to offer target shooting enthusiasts a place to gain skills and knowledge for safe, responsible firearms handling and target shooting. The rifle and handgun ranges are supervised by range safety officers and volunteers. The venue is still under construction, and when complete, will also feature sporting clays, 5-stand, skeet, and American and Olympic trap.

That’s good news to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the U.S. trade association for the firearms industry. Since the start of the pandemic, firearms sales have increased nationwide and firearms-related background checks have been surging for months.

“As sales of firearms surge due to the pandemic and with many people purchasing their first firearm, we expect to see an increase in target shooting, particularly as more ranges open for business, though right now it’s too soon to quantify,” notes Bill Brassard, Senior Director of Communications for the NSSF. “We expect to see an increase in hunting license sales too. Both target shooting and hunting are safe, rewarding, lifetime activities, which is why NSSF encourages experienced sportsmen and sportswomen to invite newcomers to participate.”

The NSSF promotes two website, www.LetsGoShooting.org and www.LetsGoHunting.org, with resources to assist beginners in gaining knowledge, understanding safety and locating appropriate venues.

The question of whether the juxtaposition of high-tech shooting venues and an increase in gun sales will result in greater participation is an open one; at the youth level, the sport has a statistically small following. The Sports Participation Survey performed by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), in the 2018-2019 school year, detailed the number of students involved in shooting sports. Nationwide, a little more than 1,000 students nationwide participated in air riflery, just over 3,300 participated in riflery and about 2,100 participated in trap shooting. (While it’s unfair to compare this to mainstream sports like football, with more than 1 million student athletes, it’s still low compared to another niche target sport, archery, which had more than 10,000).

On the other hand, individual sports like shooting can flourish at a time when other students are isolating, and when team sports may not be possible. In addition, shooting can be practiced throughout the summer so that when schools do reopen, students can return with a stronger skill set to be a part of their team.

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