John Sanders was hoping that his 18th birthday would arrive faster than a speeding bullet; actually, that’s the very reason why he couldn’t wait. With his birthday and graduation close, Sanders was eyeing that AK47 in the window of Dean’s Gun Shop in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
For only $1000, Sanders was licking his chops. He had been brought up by a family who has also shot guns — his grandfather Eugene had started “a legacy.” His first gun meant everything; after his grandfather’s passing, he was given his antique 1847 Phoenix — still, his first purchase was everything.
“I’ve been shooting sometime between nine or 11 (years old),” Sanders says. “Before I really appreciated (shooting), I liked it. It was fun. But a little after (his grandfather’s death), I started to really appreciate it. That will be one of my hobbies until the day I die.”
So, after his graduation and instead of “buying cigarettes or chew,” he purchased the gun.
Now an exercise and wellness freshman at Arizona State University, you would think that classes would take a chunk out of his shooting time. Not exactly. The gun travelled with him and so did his passion; he keeps the gun off-campus in Gilbert.
He shoots when he can — every now and again. He goes to classes only to find time for it later; ASU dictates how many magazines he can bust out. Then again, you can’t help to think, “what if he shot with greater purpose?” Maybe not his AK but a gun nonetheless.
ASU has its fair share of practical, traditional club sports with a few unique ones intermixed. As relaxed as the state of Arizona is with its gun laws (in comparison to others), competitive shooting could be a possibility. Sanders could then compete as other athletes do.
“You could take your hobby and be a part of a team,” Sanders says. “I’m a soccer and running kind of guy but it’s harder to get on a team.”
After injuring his knee, Sanders ruled out the cross-country team. Sanders runs less; he shoots more. This gives him a chance to satisfy his competitive edge with his hobby.
If a team were to be a possibility, safety is always a make-or-break factor. The club would have to be compliant with Arizona law as well as abide by ASU’s policy regarding firearms. Sanders says he has “no doubt that ASU could put together a team, but there would have to be regulations.”
Outside venues would have to be considered and the storage of firearms would be needed. In addition, the coach would need to be knowledgeable in training the gunmen.
“Think about Switzerland. They teach everyone how to use a gun and almost every house has a gun. Crime rate is decreasingly low there,” Sanders says.
Sanders strongly believes in safety when shooting. According to him, his brother “has his dad’s genes.” Every new gun is but another thing to take apart.
“My brother and dad fiddle and tinker with crap,” Sanders says. “but they know exactly what they’re holding. Knowing how a gun works is like an athletic trainer knowing what muscle moves what bone. We don’t progress if we don’t know the mechanics inside and out.”
There has always been the cliché: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Right. There’s always the risk factor—like every sport—but there are preventive steps. Guns are to a greater degree but alone that just means more steps.
“You just can’t play soccer because you roll your ankle. There’s a risk factor for everything,” Sanders says. “Like you stretch and limber up for a game, you make sure your gun is up to par (before you compete).”
It’s a matter of knowing the game; knowledge is power. By adding this sport to the pool of club sports, it broadens the clubs to choose from. Potentially, more students can come together through their passion. Then, Arizona State University could be more tightly woven amongst the campuses.
Caitlyn Tirella, a junior criminal justice major, can envision a shooting club. With her first experience three years ago, it was “BAM BAM BAM, targets down.” With the club, her opportunity to shoot wouldn’t only be during family outings.
“Feeling that adrenaline rush when you compete, it’s exhilarating. She says shooting is more interesting than cheerleading, which she used to do – “there’s more power,” Tirella says. “The group of people would have a similar interest. It’d be my perfect little clique.”
Whether it’s Tirella looking to “learn more” or Sanders looking to live through his grandfather’s passion and keep the legacy alive, a club might be beneficial.
“Shooting would be an opportunity for those group of kids,” Sanders says. “I think it would build camaraderie, a community builder in a way. Everyone on each campus who’d want to see it happen… I’m sure they’d be supportive.”
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