For Release: Thursday, July 22, 1999
Activists Worldwide Call on Olympic Officials to Reject Effort
Competition Rooted in Violent Fantasy Would Pollute Olympics, Legitimize Powerful Non-Sporting Weapons
A campaign to establish combat shooting as an exhibition sport at the 2004 Olympic Games under the euphemistic name of “practical shooting” came under fire today from gun control activists around the world. The Violence Policy Center joined international firearms researcher Philip Alpers in Washington, DC to release a new report and video clips that document the true nature of combat shooting, and call on Olympic officials to deny it official Olympic status.
Combat shooting competitions are built around fantasy scenarios, with humanoid “bad guy” targets to be shot and similar “hostage” targets to be avoided. The elaborate “courses of fire” feature names such as “Carjacked by Gang Members,” “Helicopter Raid,” and “Save the Bank.” Combat shooters typically begin them with a rapid draw from a holster, and are then timed as they run, crawl, and sometimes climb through the course, all while firing at human-scaled targets.
The highest scores are given to “head shots” and “heart shots” because of their heightened lethality, with points awarded for speed of shooting as much as for accuracy. The weapons most often used are large-caliber pistols, assault rifles, and riot shotguns, not standard sporting firearms.
The new report, Gold Medal Gunslingers, was written by Alpers and VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. The report and video both expose the violent fantasy and non-sporting weaponry at the heart of combat shooting and show how Olympic approval would subvert the Olympic Charter, help combat shooting attract young competitors, and undermine gun control laws in many countries.
“Combat shooting is a rehearsal for urban warfare, and a violent distortion of traditional target shooting,” said Alpers, the New Zealand-based editor and moderator of the on-line Gun Policy News. “The Olympic movement is dedicated to non-violence, yet combat shooting would spawn the shoot-to-kill Olympics.”
Andrew Golden, the 11-year-old boy who allegedly gunned down his classmates at a middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was a beginning combat shooter. Combat shooting boosters in the U.S. have launched an intensive effort to recruit youngsters.
“Combat shooting is the gun industry’s plan to compete with video games for kids’ attention. The big difference is that combat shooting uses real bullets,” Sugarmann said. “When you set a pre-teen loose in this fantasy world packing a pistol, you are inviting tragedies like Jonesboro.”
The report also shows how combat shooters see their pastime as a means to increase acceptance of powerful non-sporting firearms and even weaken the laws restricting them. Olympic approval, for example, could undermine the U.S. ban on many imported assault weapons and other combat-style firearms, which is based on their lack of a “sporting purpose.”
“Combat shooters fire guns specifically designed for lethal use against humans, but dress them up as wholesome sporting weapons,” Alpers said. “Olympic participation would help them carry off this charade. In the United States, New Zealand, and elsewhere, they are already trying to chip away at gun control laws.”
Alpers is marshalling support from gun control advocates around the world to persuade the International Olympic Committee to reject combat shooting. The VPC has joined Alpers and advocates in several countries in signing a letter to IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch opposing the bid.
“The Olympics are no place for competitors packing riot shotguns or assault weapons, jumping around in imaginary bank vaults or city streets, firing at the heads and hearts of humanoid targets,” Sugarmann said. “We must be sure the IOC understands that approval of combat shooting would be a deadly mistake.”