Opinion

It’s not about shooting, it’s about being guys

A young woman breaks a clay during a trap shooting competition near Sacramento. The Oakdale Sportsmans Club is debating its policies of excluding women from membership, though many women already use the club’s shooting ranges.
A young woman breaks a clay during a trap shooting competition near Sacramento. The Oakdale Sportsmans Club is debating its policies of excluding women from membership, though many women already use the club’s shooting ranges. The Sacramento Bee

Our gun club’s President blasted out the best definition of a lose-lose situation I’ve heard yet:

“This whole thing is like when I walk up to the (cowboy action) shooting line and I’ve got women on either side and if I beat them (in shooting), I beat up on a woman. If they outshoot me, I got beat by a woman!”

The “whole thing” he’s talking about is allowing women to become members of the Oakdale Sportsman’s Club (OSC) starting in 2019.

Either way, we’re going to get beat by a woman.

In California, we’ve moved past the debate of excluding anyone from any organization for any reason, because in the end the minority always wins. From the military to the Rotary Club to the Scouts, if you have a point to prove and a gang of attorneys who can throw enough shade, you’re in. Would my local gun club be any different?

Nobody from the club answered my emails, so I ambushed OSC President Jimmy Grassmidt at a busy monthly member’s dinner, my ballot in hand as each member is voting on letting women in our club or not.

“It’s just a survey for the board to consider, not a vote,” he corrected. Good. In my 17 years in the club, we’ve never allowed more than 700 members, with at least 200 on the waiting list. With that kind of success, they can keep running it like a dictatorship.

Grassmidt pointed to the stack of surveys piling up near the cash box, saying, “I’m getting plenty of letters attached to surveys coming in, pages of writing for and against women. When we did this (surveyed members about letting females in) a couple years ago, we got way too many photocopies. This time, every one is numbered with watermarks.”

These 100 or so middle-aged men talking around folding tables in the big clubhouse apparently have very strong feelings about women joining.

“Women have everything here, they shoot in every section, every day,” Grassmidt said. “They don’t have a card pass (magnetic key to drive gate), that’s it. Who in here wouldn’t open the gate for any lady who wanted to shoot?” he asked, gesturing to the men all around us.

In the din of social hour before mealtime, I can only picture these laughing, grey-haired fellows falling over themselves to help a woman. But here, they greet each other with loud, horrible insults like, “There you are, you dumb bastard … Get over here!” with the old jokes flying, “Juan, yo, how’s your wife and my kids?”

They just did this last month, but their joy at gathering is clear with awkward hugs and hearty backslapping. They’re happy just being guys, with guys.

But there are costs to that.

“A few years back, someone tried to put together a “Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA) fundraising dinner at the Club,” Grassmidt said. “When the NRA found out we didn’t let in women, they shut it down.”

So the Club takes no money from the almighty NRA? “Not a dime,” our president said, then added: “That’s mostly because they (NRA) might try to tell us we can’t have alcohol while we’re shooting or something. We don’t need them.”

The club alone funds acres of enormous, expensive curtain material behind the trap houses to capture the shotgun pellets before they fly into the river. The pistol bays, the archery target butts, all done by member labor.

Finally, Grassmidt told me considering women as members was private, club business and they might throw me out if I wrote about it.

Which is why we must keep the Oakdale Sportsman Club a sports man’s club. OSC is a place I can shake my 12-gauge in the air and scream, “You don’t tell me what to do, here!” and everyone understands. We don’t have women as members because we don’t want to.

Or maybe we’ll let them in, but it’s our decision.

Back up to that member dinner and drop in a woman. It doesn’t matter if she asked for it or even wants it, but every guy would act differently with her at their table. That’s because members were raised to see women as different, as creatures to be revered. We’re all the same if you join, which means you’ve lost something.

So, please, ladies, let us keep this pathetic little slice of freedom awhile longer. At least until I can find another club that’ll have us.

Steve Taylor, a resident of Oakdale, is a behavior analyst. Send questions or comments to columns@modbee.com.

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