Club executive officer Gerry Gamble at Decew Gun Club on Cataract Road. DON RICKERS

Annual summer competition at Decew Gun Club well attended

With all the grim news in the media about malevolent use of guns, there remain examples of responsible firearm practice for a good cause.

On July 9, the fifth annual “Shoot for Cystinosis” event was held at the Decew Gun Club, on Cataract Road, across from the entrance to Short Hills Park. As on past occasions, it featured a large turnout, with hundreds of supporters of the shooting sports in attendance.

The event raises money for children living with Cystinosis, a rare, incurable genetic disorder. The disease manifests itself in the first few years of life, and, without treatment, the buildup of cystine crystals in the body can cause kidney failure, blindness, muscle deterioration, diabetes, and problems with the thyroid and nervous system.

Cystinosis afflicts only about 2000 children and adults worldwide, with less than 100 known cases in Canada, so government-funded research is nonexistent. Drugs such as Cystagon and Procysbi slow the progression of Cystinosis, but are not a cure. The Canadian Cystinosis Research Foundation collaborates with the Cystinosis Research Foundation headquarters in California, to direct donations to leading-edge research.

Event organizer John Rakich was pleased with the turnout, and took the occasion to stress that the shooting sports are alive and well.

“Shooting is flourishing,” he said. “Every gun club that I know of has a minimum wait list of a year, with some closer to two years. Today we have ladies and lots of youngsters coming out to try small-bore rifle bullseye shooting on the 25-metre range, plus handgun shooting.”

In its first year, the charity shoot eclipsed its target of $5000, said Rakich. With monies raised increasing every year, the 2022 target is $25,000. Some $20,000 in raffle prizes were donated by local businesses. Over the course of the past four years, some $41,000 has been raised by the event for Cystinosis Research.

Each participant paid $25 to receive a practice and competition target, lunch, and tickets for a raffle and 50/50 draw. The shoot was open to everyone in the community, with no shooting experience necessary. Volunteer range officers provided a safe firing line, with each participant having a qualified shooter as a safety officer overseeing their firearm handling.

Gerry Gamble, club vice-president, said there is an element of chance in the firing line competition, so that the more experienced target shooters don’t dominate and win all the prizes.

“Because a lot of the people at the charity shoot are new to firearms, we use bolt-action, scoped .22 calibre rifles with low recoil, which are easier to shoot accurately,” he said. “Plus, we turn the targets backwards so that as long as they can hit the paper target, they can potentially win a prize.”

Shooting is a safe sport because of the mandatory training involved, and adherence to strict safety protocols, asserted Gamble.

“The National Shooting Sports Foundation in the U.S. has done research into injury rates among dozens of sports, and hunting and target shooting were near the top of the list with regard to safety, well ahead of sports like soccer, football, cycling, hockey, gymnastics, and football. I think only billiards had fewer injuries,” he said with a laugh.