Campus shooting clubs have received funding from a firearm lobbying group, and that’s ruffled the feathers of some gun control advocates and universities.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association that wants “to promote, protect, and preserve hunting and the shooting sports,” has given at least $1 million to gun clubs at 100 colleges since 2009, according to the Boston Globe.
Those funds have been given in an effort to inculcate a gun culture that values gun ownership — and opposes more stringent gun restrictions. Get college students interested in shooting as a hobby, and they’ll be more skeptical of politicians who want to limit Second Amendment rights.
Much of the funding goes to its “collegiate shooting sports initiative,” which the NSSF describes as a program that “provides both financial and non-financial support to assist in creating new college shooting teams and clubs and strengthening existing programs.”
That initiative can earn a college shooting club up to $100,000 in funding.
Some universities, such as Yale, ban such donations, as any “business lobbying groups” are prohibited from supporting student groups, Beth Healy wrote for the Globe.
The National Rifle Association claims that shooting clubs exist at about 300 colleges and universities. It also hosts shooting competitions like the NSSF, but doesn’t provide funding for campus clubs. Some college-bound high school students, however, can receive scholarships.
University faculty and administration tend to be hostile to gun ownership, and especially guns on campus, but colleges haven’t targeted gun lobbyists for a campus ban. For students interested in marksmanship and hunting, their groups haven’t faced scrutiny or harassment like campus carry groups can.
In 2015, The Washington Post claimed the gun industry funding clubs have “triggered a surge” in popularity. Another group cited by the Post, the MidwayUSA Foundation, has given “nearly $100 million to help youth and college programs.”
The relative tranquility and lack of controversy campus shooting clubs face, however, could change with the political climate. With every campus shooting, or every campus fight over concealed carry, the recreational aspect of gun ownership could be more difficult to separate from the political aspect.
In 2013, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had a campus controversy over whether university funds could be used for a student shooting club. Some universities allow ammo to be purchased with university funds, other universities only allow funding for general club activities, and other student clubs self-fund.
As universities take a stronger political stance on gun ownership and rights, either by choice or by a forced hand from students, students interested in a sporting hobby won’t have such an easy campus climate to navigate.