Four-time Olympian Lowell Bailey shoots a .22 caliber rifle for a living, but following a spate of mass shootings he said he wants the U.S. to "wake up" and ban ordinary citizens from owning assault rifles "designed to kill people."
The biathlete spoke out in favor of gun control on Tuesday after competing in Pyeongchang in the mixed relay. His comments came in reaction to a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year old former student allegedly gunned down 17 people with an AR-15 last week.
“I support an assault weapons ban,” Bailey told reporters at the Olympics, The Washington Post reported. “I really do. Our country needs to wake up. Our country needs to change. There’s just no excuse. I compete against all of these other World Cup nations — Germany, Norway. How good are they on the range? They’re great at rifle marksmanship. Do you know how strict their gun controls law are? It’s a travesty America hasn’t changed and continues to go down this path. It just makes me want to cry.”
Bailey is not the only U.S. biathlete in favor of the ban.
Susan Dunklee, a two-time Olympian competing in Pyeongchang said she feels sick to her stomach to learn of mass shootings, according to a report in the Burlington Free Press.
“It really takes a lot of the joy I have out of pursuing a sport like this. It’s tough. It’s so important to have responsible use of firearms. It’s a privilege to use a firearm. It’s not just something that any old person should have.”
Tim Burke, another U.S. biathlete at the Winter Games, is also an avid hunter but said, “if locking up all of my sports rifles and my hunting rifles meant saving one life, I would do it,” according to the Post.
The athletes say their sport isn’t about the thrill of pulling a trigger but about marksmanship and mental focus under physical challenges of a cross-country race.
"We’re a sport that uses a .22-caliber rifle,” Bailey said. "A .22-caliber rifle that shoots a single round is a much different thing than an AR-15. In my opinion, there’s just no reason for assault rifles to be in the hands of ordinary citizens."
Bailey said biathletes from other countries are puzzled by U.S. gun laws and "how we can continue to put assault weapons in the hands of anyone who wants to walk into a gun store and buy one.”
President Donald Trump is open to strengthening background checks, the White House said Tuesday.
A hundred students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School traveled 400 miles to Florida's capitol in Tallahassee Tuesday to urge action on gun control. Hours before their arrival, the Florida House voted against taking up a bill that would ban assault rifles. Some Republicans in the state's GOP-controlled legislature have said they would consider other measures, The Associated Press reported.
Sen. Bill Galvano, the incoming Florida senate president, said an emerging package would raise the age to purchase any firearm to 21, create a firearm waiting period, ban bump stocks and create gun-violence restraining orders.