Rhody Rifle Club promotes inclusion, safety during first season

At the University of Rhode Island, the Rhody Rifle Club promotes gun safety while practicing precision rifle, according to club President Emily Lopez and club Vice President and Social Media Manager Sophia Wood.

Precision rifle is an Olympic sport where players shoot .22-caliber rifles that are one inch long, Wood said. The diameter of the bullets is the same as the end of a pencil, and they are shot at paper targets 50 feet away. 60 shots are issued from different positions such as the prone position where you lie down and shoot at the targets, kneeling and standing up. The main goal is to quickly shoot the bullet as close to the target’s center, which is the size of a ballpoint pen. 

The idea of the club was a joint effort between the whole executive board. They had friends who got to play for NCAA teams, Lopez said. However, their friends had to go out of state to places like Kentucky.

“So we were like, it would be awesome if people from Rhode Island had a college or university in Rhode Island that had their own team,” according to Lopez.

To add a rifle team to URI’s clubs, they had to get the Student Senate’s approval, Lopez and Wood said. Some of the concerns from the Senate was safety because of the stigma on firearms. Lopez and Wood’s own concerns were the struggle to explain their sport and getting the club’s message across, according to Lopez.

“That was what we were most worried about, besides getting support from the URI community and interest,” Lopez said.

The goals for the club is to give students exposure to the sport and to be recognized as an official club sport, Lopez and Wood said. At RhodyFest, a club fair designed for first-year students at URI, they asked students if they had ever shot before and many said no, but were interested in learning how.

“Obviously, you need to be 21 to purchase a firearm. Once they are that age, we want to give the students a chance to play the sport who previously didn’t have that option,” Lopez said.

The club benefits the URI community by adding diversity to the other clubs, according to Lopez. She said it gives students a different experience and perspective in their sport.

“Students are like oh my gosh, we had no idea that this was an Olympic sport offered at URI,” Lopez said.

Other people who shoot generally get a lot of enjoyment from it, Wood added. That’s how she and Lopez became friends. According to her, they got to travel together and make other friends. A former teammate from their high school team, the South County Rod & Gun Club team, got the opportunity to go to the Junior Olympics last spring.

“The community was so nice and so we thought this could broaden URI’s clubs and give students their own experiences,” Wood said.

The only requirement for participation is being physically able to hold a 10 pound rifle, Lopez says. No experience is needed because in their first practice, they take a test that verifies their understanding of range safety. After the test, the board reinforces the importance of safety and has the students watch them do the positions like standing up and laying down.

“So there’s no prerequisites, but when we have practices, we make sure everyone can handle shooting the firearms,” according to Lopez.

Lopez and Wood have been playing this sport for almost four years. Wood said she started either in her second or third year of high school. Lopez said she started the sport in her first year of high school, but has been shooting since she was nine.   

Right now, the club currently shoots for Elite Indoor Gun Range in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. They are only an organization, so they can only practice the sport. There are a lot of club teams in New England that compete on the college level and they aim to be part of that, Wood said.

While figuring out the logistics, Wood and Lopez plan to practice with the Rhody Rifle Team at the Elite Indoor Gun Range on Mondays and Tuesdays around 6 p.m.. 

“Our end goal is to be officially recognized as a club sport and play against teams in state or out of state,” Wood said.