The only athletic trophies I earned in my adult life were courtesy of the Hart House rifle range, which I discovered as a frosh at U of T many years ago. I won’t tell you how many years, but suffice to say that some shooters liked to relax between targets by smoking – indoors – a few yards back from the three firing positions.
After several threats to do so, U of T has finally managed to shut down the facility. University assistant vice-president Rob Steiner gave the official spin:
“It was generally felt that the presence of a gun range on campus 80 years ago might have been consistent with our academic values ... in the last 10 years those values started to deviate.
“This is really a values issue. This is not a safety issue as strictly defined. If there had been a safety concern it would have been shut down right away.”
He said the decision can not be appealed.
The university said that Hart House Rifle and Revolver Clubs, which have produced a number of international competitors, including at least one Olympian, will have to shut its doors on Sept. 30.
--National Post, today
In my day, the range attracted a varied cast of characters, many of whom were alumni, post-graduates and never-graduates. The ones I met included a palaeontologist, a guy who was fluent in Russian, a guy who worked for Canada Post and his criminology-student girlfriend, a guy training to be a minister (Presbyterian, I think), and a hilarious Chinese guy with a massive handgun collection that included 18 stainless steel revolvers.
But the fun was not confined to the U of T range. Somehow, I managed to get onto the University of Toronto rifle team. We participated in a couple of tournaments at Fort York. We got to go to a tournament in Quebec, where I distinguished myself by shooting into the target of the guy next to me (it was a longer range than I was used to), yet still managed to win a ladies’ medal. Deciding I hadn’t caused enough trouble, I got into an altercation with an official over the placement of a red “L” by my name on the scoreboard (indicating my status as a lady contestant) because I thought there would be no gender distinctions in shooting. When I joined the campus Tories in my second year, my interest in shooting faded, though I did hold onto my Firearms Acquisition Certificate for 10 years.
Naturally, the closing is being lamented by those associated with the club:
But those who shoot at the clubs say it’s absurd to shutter a safe and popular facility just to be politically correct.
“Ordinarily when a licence gets revoked there is a reason, but in this case there was no reason,” said Kris Coward, a doctoral candidate in mathematics, and a member of the clubs for the past four years.
“It was politically incorrect to have a club on campus.”
He said security at the range is very tight, and club members are required to take a safety course before they can fire a round.
“We still have liquid nitrogen on campus, are they going to get rid of that?”
Avianna Chao recently won a gold medal at the Pan American Games and is vying for a spot on the 2008 Olympic team.
She has competed at the clubs and said closing the facility will hurt the students.
“It’s a good facility, it’s affordable. It’s in a very controlled environment. We were actually looking to set up a junior program at U of T. We thought it would be a great place for developing future athletes.”
--National Post, today
Ironically, Hart House holds a well-attended Remembrance Day service every year, just above ground of the range where many of the fallen were trained in riflery.