Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Champ Repeats in Running Target, Takes Shot at Critics

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Champ Repeats in Running Target, Takes Shot at Critics

Article excerpt

Shooting is not a soft, inviting sport like figure skating and some other Olympic Festival events. It's about aiming guns at targets and discharging them, and it's controversial.

One Festival athlete, however, expects that to change. While some participants acknowledge they've stared down a barrel of politics, Lonn Saunders, 22, hopes to aim the sport of shooting in a positive direction.

"One thing I've always wanted to convey to people is since I've been involved in shooting, I've had my expenses for school paid for and I've traveled all across the world," Saunders said.

At last year's U.S. Olympic Festival in San Antonio, Saunders won the 10-meter running target competition. On Monday, he sucessfully defended his national championship - and the sport of shooting.

Critics range from moralists to lobbyists. The National Rifle Association - a political lightning rod for gun-owner rights - governed shooting competition until last year. USA Shooting has been appointed by the U.S. Olympic Committee as the organization responsible for the administration of shooting sports.

No longer aligned with the NRA, shooters aren't confined to the microscope of critics.

It doesn't necessarily mean they can aim with ease. But it does allow focus on a sport requiring craft and hand-eye coordination.

"People have an attitude toward shooting," said Ralph Saunders, Lonn's father. The elder Saunders, 51, has been involved in competitive shooting for 40 years, including the past 20 as a coach. He's coached some of the top shooters in the world, including 1984 Olympic gold medalist Pat Spurgin.

"Politicians want to keep guns out of people's hands, and we appreciate their efforts," the elder Saunders said. But Saunders echoed the NRA's organization line that "criminals and not the guns" deem scrutiny.

"It's the person using the firearms" who commits the crime, he said. The competitive shooters are "people shooting at a piece of cardboard. It's harmless," the elder Saunders said. …

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