Public Schools Used to Have Rifle Teams — Even New York

I graduated from high school in 1968. There were some problem students. I do remember a student who robbed a bank during lunch and hid the money in his locker, but that was the rare exception. It was big news at the time because it was so out of the ordinary. There were fights and petty thievery. The perpetrators were dealt with swiftly by the administration without having to worry that their parents would hire a lawyer and sue the school.

My wife grew up in a small town in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania. The schools closed for the first day of doe and buck season. There was no reason to hold classes because most of the boys would be out with their dads hunting deer. No one ever took a gun to school to shoot anybody. You could see kids riding down the street with a rifle across the handle bars.

Many people do not know that many high schools across the country used to have shooting clubs. Some still do. I recall visiting a school in Prospect Heights, Illinois, that had been sold to a Christian school that also operated a home schooling curriculum company. The school was huge. It had three gymnasiums, wide halls, and a beautiful brick front. It also had a shooting range. This once-public school had a shooting club that competed with other schools.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new control bill into law to protect the children. But it wasn’t too long ago that New York had rifle teams in its schools. Even New York City had them. This is from Charles C. Cooke’s article “Gun Clubs at School”:

“In 1975, New York state had over 80 school districts with rifle teams. In 1984, that had dropped to 65. By 1999 there were just 26. The state’s annual riflery championship was shut down in 1986 for lack of demand. This, sadly, is a familiar story across the country. The clubs are fading from memory, too.

“A Chicago Tribune report from 2007 notes the astonishment of a Wisconsin mother who discovered that her children’s school had a range on site. ‘I was surprised, because I never would have suspected to have something like that in my child’s school,’ she told the Tribune. The district’s superintendent admitted that it was now a rarity, confessing that he ‘often gets raised eyebrows’ if he mentions the range to other educators. The astonished mother raised her eyebrows — and then led a fight to have the range closed. ‘Guns and school don’t mix,’ she averred. If you have guns in school, that does away with the whole zero-tolerance policy’”

Times have change. Well, actually, people and schools have changed.

You can get a sense of the change by watching the film Lean on Me (1989). It’ about an inner-city New Jersey school that was first-rate until the social engineers tried to make education fashionable. The school was in disrepair, and the majority of students could not pass a basic skills test. School officials were desperate for a quick turnaround. They brought in Joe Clark, a no nonsense administrator who dealt with crime by throwing out the criminals. Here’s the scene:

“I want all of you to take a good look at these people on the risers behind me. These people have been here up to five years and done absolutely nothing. These people are drug dealers and drug users. They have taken up space; they have disrupted the school; they have harassed your teachers, and they have intimidated you. Well, times are about to change. You will not be bothered in Joe Clark’s school. These people are incorrigible. And since none of them can graduate anyway, you [turning to the incorrigible students] are all expurgated. You are dismissed! You are out of here forever! I wish you well.”

At this point, Clark’s security team escorts the former students out of the school. Cheering erupts from the remaining students.

The problem is not with guns; it’s with kids and the amoral world they’ve been raised in.