Agnel Philip / The Arizona Republic – 2018-03-11 00:29:20
NRA Provided Grants to More than a Dozen
Arizona High School Shooting Clubs
Agnel Philip / The Arizona Republic
“Kids at the school are never left unsupervised with any firearms. It’s no different than any other sport program that’s out there.”
— Chief Warrant Officer Four Tom Gross
PHOENIX (March 9, 2018) — The NRA Foundation provided grants to 15 Arizona high school clubs between 2010 and 2016, giving equipment and money often used for competitive shooting teams.
The grants total more than $200,000 during the seven-year period, according to an Associated Press analysis of National Rifle Association Foundation’s tax filings.
The gun-rights group has come under intense scrutiny and criticism in the wake of the February shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school, in which a gunman killed 17 students. Many of its corporate partners have severed ties to the NRA.
The group’s school grants in Arizona all went to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, many of which field competitive shooting teams. School officials said the grants provided funding and equipment, including air rifles, pellets, safety gear and Kevlar backstops for shooting ranges.
“Competitive air rifle is an Olympic sport,” said Chief Warrant Officer Four Tom Gross, who runs the Tombstone High School JROTC rifle team. “The NRA helps our kids be more prepared to compete at the local, state and national level.”
Tombstone High’s team received two grants in the past two years that included 10 pellet guns, an air tank and gun safes. It also received a $16,700 grant in 2013 of equipment for a shooting range.
“Kids at the school are never left unsupervised with any firearms,” Gross said. “It’s no different than any other sport program that’s out there.”
Nationwide, the NRA Foundation gave more than $7 million in grants to hundreds of U.S. schools, the AP analysis found. Its contributions to all community groups nationwide totaled $61.2 million, according to the analysis.
The NRA didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Others Get Grants
Grants to schools made up 13 percent of the more than $1.5 million given to Arizona organizations between 2010 and 2016. Among other recipients were the Joe Foss Institute, which received $110,000 â€” all of it cash.
The institute, perhaps best known for its 2015 push to require that all Arizona high school graduates pass a civics test, aims to “educate our youth on the importance of America’s unique freedoms and to inspire them to public service,” according to its Facebook page.
A representative at the group didn’t return a call seeking comment.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s shooting range branch received three grants in 2012 and 2013 totaling more than $100,000. Two were used for the Northern Arizona Shooting Range, including parking lot and road improvements, trap and skeet lane construction, and a septic system upgrade, said Bill Andres, information branch chief at the department.
Helping Shooting Teams
Flowing Wells High School’s JROTC rifle team, in Tucson, received four grants valued at nearly $33,000 for “youth equipment” and “competitive shooting” between 2012 and 2016. Most of those grants were equipment.
The Flowing Wells team received the most money from the gun group. The school district didn’t respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
The Campo Verde High School JROTC booster club received three grants valued at more than $26,000 between 2013 and 2015. Gilbert Public Schools said in an emailed statement that the rifle team no longer exists.
Rio Rico High School’s JROTC program received two grants totaling $23,000, including one in 2010 of 10 rifles, scopes, shooting mats and other accessories, said Carol Cullen, communications specialist for the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District.
The district’s governing board voted in February to accept a $196 contribution from the NRA for an online marksmanship scoring system, superintendent David Verdugo said in a statement.
“At Rio Rico High School, NRA funds or non-cash donations are used specifically for the Marksmanship instructional program,” Verdugo said in the statement. He added: “All students who have participated on the RRHS team have graduated and moved on to college, technical training, or the military.”
Other programs received one-time grants, including Sahuarita High School’s Navy JROTC. The club received a non-cash grant of $17,500 in 2015 for competitive shooting.
Maryvale High School’s JROTC in Phoenix received 5 air rifles, pellets and a mobile range from an NRA grant in 2015, said Craig Pletenik, communications director at the Phoenix Union High School District.
“The rifles don’t last forever,” Pletenik said, noting that the school doesn’t currently plan to apply for more grants. “Whenever we can get a helping hand, then it’s a good thing.”
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