For Rob Vance, UCSB alum and Co-Founder of the campus Gun Club, long-range rifle shooting is a lot like yoga.
“It requires you to focus, and you block out all of the other problems and distractions on your mind,” Vance said yesterday at the group’s Winter Rifle Shoot. “It’s a great way to relieve stress.”
The shoot drew some two dozen UCSB students to the Winchester Canyon Gun Club to hone their skills firing at targets on the WCGC’s 100-yard range. Also present were several seasoned shooters from the local community, who turned out to support the younger set.
Vance said that for him and the other shooting veterans, passing on their sport to the next generation is a top priority, and was the chief motivation for organizing the club with friend and UCSB alum Antony Mascovich back in 2003.
“We don’t want the sport to go the way of the dinosaurs,” Vance said. “We welcome new members who are young, with good eyes, good reflexes and preferably who haven’t partied too hard the night before.”
The National Rifle Association currently provides funding for the UCSB Gun Club, Vance said, as a recent $8,000 donation has helped furnish the club with equipment and practice space. In addition to members having free access to the WCGC’s various shooting ranges, the club organizes four to five formal meets per year.
Vance said the stigma surrounding guns, shooting and the NRA hinders recruitment.
“Our sport has been called Red-Neck Golf,” Vance said. “California is a liberal place – you go to a place like Modesto, or anywhere 100 miles or so inland, and you find a very different state.”
However, many students in the club said the sport is not political for them, and that the members’ political views vary widely within the club.
WCGC Membership Coordinator Jerry Adams said his father, a duck hunter from Louisiana, taught him to love the sport at a very young age.
“A gun requires respect – demands it,” Adams said. “I get so bloody mad about gang-bangers, drive-by shooters and that sort of thing. That’s not how I was raised to use a gun. It is our responsibility to teach our youth properly about respect and morality if we want to build a good society.
Others, like Rob Florkowski, a third-year political science major, said he took up shooting when he joined the Army after high school. After returning from two years serving in the general infantry and 3 years as a sniper in Kosovo and Iraq, Florkowski said he kept up shooting as a hobby and joined the team over the summer.
“It’s a great experience,” Florkowski said. “Those that have never shot before have to come out and at least give it a try. They can get qualified instruction from guys that really know what they’re doing.”
The club is currently recruiting new members. Those interested in joining or attending their events are encouraged to visit the club’s Facebook group, which currently boasts 100 members.