Why not a volleyball game or golf tournament?
Well, because when a bunch of law enforcement officers choose a sport to raise money for a special cause, shooting guns sounds like fun.
“It’s a blast,” said Ryan Fulks, one of eight Gardner police officers who competed Saturday in the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office shooting competition at the Mill Creek Rifle Club in De Soto to raise money for the Special Olympics.
Sheriff’s detective Becky Crabtree said the event was spawned from a conversation two years ago with deputies about what the department could do to set it apart from other Special Olympics fundraisers.
“Primarily what we practice is our guns and shooting. So why not a shooting competition?” Crabtree said. “And obviously we don’t have the Special Olympics athletes out here shooting.
“If you’ve ever been to a Special Olympics, you would understand why we do this,” Crabtree said. “The day they get their medals put around their necks, it doesn’t matter if they know what we did to help them. We get to see the smiles on their faces.”
This was the second year the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office sponsored the shootout — and the first time it was open to civilian competitors. More than 250 shooters showed up.
Last year, the shooting event raised $3,200. This year’s goal was $4,500, and on Saturday the shootout raked in $7,100. Competitors paid as much as $35 apiece to register.
Most of the police and deputies fired department-issued Glock semi-automatic pistols, but the civilians carried an array of firearms.
“Anyone who wanted to could come with their own weapon and shoot. It’s the civilians who have the coolest guns,” Crabtree said.
Everyone signed a waiver promising to obey the safety rules: no unholstered weapons inside the pavilion. No one is allowed to even touch their weapon until they are standing on the line of fire and are instructed to by the range officer. And you want to wear your earmuffs and goggles. It was really loud, and bullet casings were flying.
Especially during the side shoot, where four-person teams were timed while they released rapid fire on a marked 2-by-4. The team that cuts its bullet-riddled board in half the fastest wins.
Corinne Mosher, an accomplished violinist, pianist and an instructor at Centerfire Shooting Sports, stood side-by-side with the three guys on her firing team. It took a mere 25 seconds to cut their board. They tied the Johnson County sheriff’s courthouse team.
Mosher, one of only five women in the competition, was nervous at first.
“But as soon as you start shooting, you are just having so much fun,” she said. “This is definitely a male-dominated event, but we women, we bring some class to the sport.”
Fulks, the Gardner officer, attended the competition last year.
“I went back and told all the guys how great it was. Last year Gardner had one officer, and this year we have eight,” Fulks said.
But that’s not the only improvement he noticed. “I’m shooting a lot better this year, too.”
Even though most everyone was shooting just for fun, bragging rights were on the line among various departments. “And of course us guys are going to razz each other regardless,” Fulks said.