Olympic Shooters: Anti-Gun Laws, People Affect Us

Kim Rhode competing in the Olympic Games in London. photo from washingtonpost.com.

Ever wondered if the gun-control issue affects those who don't just own guns but also shoot day-in and day-out for a livjng? It does, and at a much higher level than most of us.

According to this piece from ABC News, Olympic shooters are keenly aware of the gun debate, and are starkly reminded of it each time there is a high-profile shooting in the news.

“I just wait for my phone to ring. I know the questions are coming,” said Kim Rhode, two-time Olympic gold medalist shotgunner in the story.

“Sport shooters are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment, given their chosen event. Because they are public figures, more so during Olympic years, they have become targets for anti-gun groups. Mass shootings exacerbate the rift over gun control and often put Olympic shooters in the crosshairs of hate.”

“It’s unfortunate that we get lumped in with that,” Rhode said in the story. She’s working now to become the first American athlete to win medals in a sixth straight Game at next month’s Rio Olympics. “There has to be some kind of reality.”

The story points out that one of the first questions Rhode was asked after she won her second career gold in skeet at the 2012 London Games was about the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which had occurred a few days prior.

The story says that some shooters have received death threats. Trap shooter Corey Cogdel-Unrein needed extra security after someone posted hunting videos on her Facebook page without her knowledge. Though she grew up in Alaska and is a hunter, she said publicly she didn't agree with the content of the videos and that she hadn't posted them, she received numerous death threats and, after the London Games, there was a petition to strip her of her bronze medal.

"Unfortunately, there were people who decided to hone in on me as a public figure at the time and they wanted to push their agenda of trying to stop animal cruelty and hunting," said Cogdell-Unrein, who is also headed to Rio. "Hopefully that will not happen again. If it does, I will be better prepared this time. I definitely don't support animal cruelty and a lot of the things they were saying I was a part of."

Aside from the public criticism, the practicality of being a full-time competitive shooter is getting more and more difficult as various state gun laws become stricter, hampering an individual's ability to obtain guns and ammunition, the story says .

Rhode, for instance, lives in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a package of draconian gun laws that, among other things, will require a background check for every single ammunition purchase. For someone like Rhode, who said in the story that she runs through about 1,000 shotgun shells a day in training, a law like that will have a big impact.

"I'm not sure how that's going to work out, how that's going to affect me, what that's going to entail," Rhode said in the story. "It could make things much more difficult for me to train."

On top of all that, competitive shooters have to travel a lot to compete, and that means traveling to and through states with widely differing and varied gun laws, plus laws in foreign countries.

“Even knowing the regulations doesn't always make things go smoothly. Rhode once had a flight from San Marino delayed for hours after a competition because security officials were concerned she had multiple shotguns and ammunition in her luggage.”

“Jay Shi, an air gun and pistol shooter headed to his first Olympics, had to wait nearly four hours to get cleared into China for a competition as security hand counted every bullet. The process was repeated when he left.”

“Shi had to stand by another time as a security person took out his pistol to examine it because of the strange-looking handle used on competition guns.”

“’The rule is not to touch the gun, but they took it out and were looking at it,’ Shi said. ‘I was freaking because now they're waving a gun all around.’”