The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is a U.S. government-chartered program that promotes firearms safety training and rifle practice for all qualified U.S. citizens with special emphasis on youth. Any U.S. citizen who is not legally prohibited from owning a firearm may purchase a military surplus rifle from the CMP, provided they are a member of a CMP affiliated club. Source
Shooting Ranges in High Schools:
There are now approximately 3,400 secondary schools in the U.S. with units of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a military training and recruiting program open to students as young as age 14. Founded in 1916, it is operated jointly by the host schools and individual military branches. Instructors are retired military officers employed by the local school district. Over half a million students are enrolled in the program and attend daily classes that teach them military customs and demeanor. They are assigned ranks, are required to wear uniforms at least once a week, learn to march, and study history, civics and other subjects from Pentagon-supplied textbooks.
Marksmanship training is an optional component of JROTC and is used as a magnet to boost student enrollment in the program. The Civilian Marksmanship Program, which promotes youth involvement with guns and collaborates with JROTC, has stated that at least two-thirds of all JROTC units include marksmanship training. If true, this means that marksmanship training exists in over 2,200 U.S. high schools. Source
JROTC's militarism runs counter to many school-based initiatives to deter the spread of school violence. At a time when schools are employing a variety of methods -- from metal detectors to peer conflict mediation -- to curb incidents of violence in the schools, create safe learning environments, and teach peaceful means of conflict resolution, JROTC's introduction of weapons training, its partnership with the NRA to sponsor marksmanship matches, and its modeling of militaristic solutions to problems contradict schools' stated opposition to violence. Many schools accept JROTC's claim that the program benefits students prone to acts of violence without realizing the irony of looking to the military as a solution for violent behavior. Source
Banning the Shooting Ranges
Doubts about the JROTC marksmanship program have not been totally absent. Originally, students were trained with either .22 caliber rifles or compressed-air rifles that fired lead pellets. Sometime in the last 10-15 years, the Pentagon made a decision to phase out the .22s in favor of using only pellet rifles. It seems likely this was because of the perceived possibility of a future public relations problem. That fear might have been fed in 1999 when the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, home of the country's largest JROTC program, responded to the Columbine school shooting by acting administratively to ban all marksmanship training in the district. Source
In the summer of 2007, the San Diego-based Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO) was supporting students and others in a struggle to stop the opening of a Marine JROTC program at Mission Bay High School. At the same time, people were learning that a rifle range was to be part of the newly built Lincoln High School campus. When it was discovered that more high schools in San Diego had shooting ranges as part of JROTC, teachers, community activists, parents and students formed the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC). Community organizations that supported the coalition included Project YANO, UJIMA Institute for Civic Responsibility, Association of Raza Educators, MEChA and AFSC, among others.
The Lead Issue
Many high schools have shifted from using .22's to pellet guns. Pellet guns and .22’s use lead bullets that spew lead particulates, but CMP downplays the health risks associated with its facilities in its publication, "Guide for Lead Management for Air Gun Shooting." http://www.odcmp.com/comm/publications/PDFs/LeadMgtGuide.pdf
The publication asserts, "Target shooting with air rifes and smallbore rifes does not create real health risks for shooting sports participants." There is substantial scientific evidence to refute this.
The CMP also claims, "When air gun range cleaning is performed according to prescribed range management guidelines, lead residues from air gun firing can be effectively removed from the range floor. This is probably a correct assertion, but can we safely assume guidelines are being adhered to at all 4,806 CMP clubs?
In air rife shooting, projectiles made of lead are placed in the breech end of the rifle barrel and are propelled towards the target by bursts of compressed gas. Lead management issues arise from handling pellets, the passage of pellets through the barrel and the fragmentation of pellets that occurs when pellets strike backstops. All of this may occur in the school gym after school hours.
"The U.S. Center for Disease Control recognizes blood lead levels (BLLs) of >25 µg/dL in adults and >10 µg/dL in children aged <6 years as levels of concern; no similar level has been set for older children and adolescents (1,2). During 2002--2004, the Alaska Environmental Public Health Program (EPHP) conducted lead-exposure assessments of school-based indoor shooting teams in the state, after a BLL of 44 µg/dL was reported in a man aged 62 years who coached a high school shooting team in central Alaska. This report summarizes the results of the EPHP investigation of potential lead exposure in 66 members of shooting teams, aged 7--19 years, who used five indoor firing ranges. The findings suggest that improper design, operation, and maintenance of ranges were the likely cause of elevated BLLs among team members at four of the five firing ranges. Public health officials should identify indoor firing ranges that have not implemented lead-safety measures and offer consultation to reduce the risk for lead exposure among shooters, coaches, and employees." Source
- The Gun Problem No One Talks About: Shooting Ranges in Schools, Rick Jahnxow, Project YANO
- High school firing range spreads dangerous lead particulates in Flint, MI, EPA Complaint filed, NCPSP
- A Cool Elective You Can't Get Out Of, Dorian Hargrove, San Diego Reader
- High School Shooting Ranges Become Targets of Criticism, The Guardian, University of California San Diego
- Education Not Arms Coalition, San Diego, California
- Education Not Arms Coalition, Facebook
- Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO)
- National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, Maryland
- Guns in America: From Schools to Shooting Ranges, The Urban Legend, The Urban School of San Francisco (PDF)