At a time when many districts are going to great lengths to keep guns out of schools, J.R.O.T.C. has become one of the few programs on campuses that promote weapons training, reported The New York Times.
The N.R.A. has donated more than $5 million in money and equipment since 2015 to support competitive shooting programs at schools, as one of several outside organizations that have provided funding to J.R.O.T.C. programs, according to tax records and other documents. Some of the districts that have received N.R.A. funding, such as the one in Lee County, Fla., include schools that automatically enroll students in J.R.O.T.C. classes in some grades, or otherwise push students to take them, though participation on the marksmanship teams is most often voluntary.
The organization has supported J.R.O.T.C. programs by hosting shooting competitions, highlighting teams in its trade magazine and providing special badges to J.R.O.T.C. shooting competitors.
The programs, which utilize air rifles rather than live-fire weapons, are prevalent in many communities where marksmanship and hunting are popular sporting activities, and parents have credited the instruction with teaching young people to handle guns safely. But schools largely prohibit guns on campus, and the marksmanship teams have at times alarmed teachers and students concerned about school shootings and a rise in gun violence. Some districts have dismantled their J.R.O.T.C. marksmanship programs or had heated debates about how to incorporate them into school life.
In a statement, a spokesman for the N.R.A. said that the group was proud to fund the shooting teams and that the J.R.O.T.C. instructors’ promotion of the N.R.A. was their choice, not a requirement for funding.
“The N.R.A. Foundation proudly supports firearms education and training for a variety of deserving organizations,” said the spokesman, Andrew Arulanandam. “Grant recipients sometimes voluntarily promote our efforts to bring awareness to the importance of firearms training, gun safety and shooting sports. We are proud of these activities and the way they positively impact students, schools and communities across the country.”
In their bids to obtain N.R.A. grants to fund marksmanship training and competition on campus, J.R.O.T.C. instructors have said the funding will expand the number of teenagers trained in the safe use of firearms and advance the Second Amendment, according to school district documents obtained by The New York Times in response to more than 100 records requests. Some instructors have promised to encourage cadets to join the N.R.A. and have volunteered students to participate in N.R.A. fund-raising events.
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