Exposure:Small arms firing 

On the range with the next generation of Second Amendment advocates.

The Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) held their annual Celebrity Bowling Pin Shootout at the Deer Creek Range recently, drawing competitors from across the state to pelt bowling pins with shotguns, pistols and assault rifles. Now in its 18th year, the shootout is organized by MSSA president and gun rights advocate Gary Marbut.

The “celebrity” aspect of the event refers to a handful of Montana state legislators, including Rep. Joe Balyeat (R-Bozeman) and Sen. Mike Taylor (R-Proctor). Taylor is a Master class sporting clays competitor and is staging a bid against U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in the 2002 election. Balyeat’s campaign literature reads: “Pro-tax cuts, pro-regulation cuts, pro-gun rights, pro-property rights, pro-family, pro-life, pro-farm, pro-freedom.” He says the ability to fire a gun safely and accurately is invaluable for children.

“This is a good experience for the kids,” he said. “It’s a safe environment and an important activity.” Marbut points to National Safety Council (NSC) statistics showing that from 1970 to 1995, the number of fatal gun accidents for children aged 0-14 declined three-fold, falling from 530 to 181. Motor vehicle deaths in the same year accounted for 3,059 deaths, or nearly 17 times the number of childhood gun-related deaths.

Still, another NSC study indicates that the presence of a gun in the home triples the risk of a homicide in the home.

Carol Smith, president of the Montana Women’s Shooting Association, says that keeping people out of harm’s way is key. “My single biggest concern is safety,” she says, adding that the MWSA and the MSSA are a successful and proactive lobby in the state legislature. “We’ve passed pro-gun legislation in every legislative session recently,” she says. The Pin Shoot is an important fund-raiser for these activities, and it allows gun advocates and sport shooters to play together as families. “The competition is nice and safe. It’s really a family oriented event.”

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