...U.S. gun sales have begun to level after a spike caused by fears that mass shootings, including the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, would lead to restrictions. High-school trap offers a wholesome marketing opportunity for gunmakers and retailers like Cabela’s Inc., which underwrite events and donate to teams. Manufacturers tailor products for smaller bodies and budgets, such as the lightweight $480 SXP Trap by Winchester Repeating Arms. The league estimates teams’ spending will top $5 million this year.
Competitive musketry dates to 16th century England and has been an Olympic sport since 1896. Today trap, a cousin of skeet and sporting clays, is as popular with Minnesota’s urban boys and girls as it is with their counterparts in rural areas, where hunting’s in the DNA. “It’s just cool, because I get to use a gun,” said Stephanie Petsilis, 17, who shoots for Wayzata High School outside Minneapolis with a $1,430 Browning BT-99 Micro.
At the championship, held at a range 130 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, contestants fired 12-gauge shotguns at inverted orange saucers flying 42 miles per hour. The five-person squads that came closest to exploding 100 targets in 100 tries advanced to the state tournament.
Zac Olson, 15, used a SKB Century III 12-gauge as a member of the Lakeville South High School team, which he joined after an injury ended a budding gymnastics career. “All you need to do is practice,” he said, wearing the team’s black-and-khaki vest. “You don’t have to be super fast or super strong.”
His mother, Courtney Olson, went from being repulsed at the thought of guns in their house near Minneapolis to buying Zac the $1,400 shotgun and a $600 Glock 17 to nurture his newfound interest in becoming a police officer. “To see your kid this happy is incredible,” she said.
Lakeville South’s top shooter, 16-year-old Andy Krebs, wore a T-shirt with a quotewronglyascribed to Thomas Jefferson: “Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.”
The sport turned him into an ardent gun-rights supporter, Andy said. “I don’t know if I really would have been exposed to that had the team not come to the school.”
For the National Rifle Association, which lobbies against firearm restrictions, youngsters like him represent an important new constituency. “These kids are going to be future legislators, and they’re going to get in there and know the truth about weapons,” said Dennis Taylor, an NRA member and an operations manager at the Wisconsin Trapshooting Association.