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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Meat Shoot? What's a Meat Shoot?

Yay me. I live in the only state in the nation that does not allow concealed carry. I also live in a state that has some of the most  ridiculously strict firearms laws. And then there's that who pesky FOID (Firearm Owners Identification Card) that is an Illinois resident requirement to own a firearm, posses a firearm, live in a house with firearms stored there, purchase a firearm or even purchase ammunition!. Yeegads.

However gun owners in Illinois are praying that change is coming.Yesterday was a long marathon debate  day at the capitol in Springfield as legislators debated the concealed carry issue. 

An often held belief by those of us who live downstate, those who live in deep southern Illinois, and those who live the rural areas of Illinois is that we are lost and forgotten by our State government in favor of the huge Chicagoland political machine.

This disconnect between Chicagoland and the rest of the state was never more evident than during the marathon debates  surrounding the concealed carry issue.

Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, asked Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, about her amendment, which would have prohibited carrying at places that serve alcohol.

"Have you ever heard of a meat shoot?" Costello asked.

"Thankfully not," Williams replied.

Costello explained that a meat shoot is typically a fundraiser for a worthy cause, where shotguns are fired at targets as a game where meat can be won. Alcohol sometimes is served. Costello said he feared the amendment could outlaw such events.

A meat shoot or shooting match is an integral part  of rural and southern Illinois culture. Many civic organizations, conservation organizations, and individual  businesses  sponsor and hold meat shoots to serve as fundraisers. When someone in a small town needs a hand with medical expenses, help after a house fire, any number of reasons - often a local organization or tavern will host a "shooting match" to help raise funds.

What exactly goes on at a meat shoot?

Participants at meat shoots, most commonly using shotguns, (although BB gun shooting matches are also popular family events in many areas) shoot at a paper target. The shooter who has the tightest grouping and the most pellet strikes in the center of the target is deemed the winner. And the winner traditionally gains a large bundle of meat- whole hams, turkeys. sides of bacon. Packages of sausage and chops, bundles of chickens - a good shot takes home plenty to fill freezer.

But perhaps what is so often overlooked about meat shoots is the community aspect of the event. Youngsters learn about firearms and firearm safety from their parents and grandparents in an informal  community based atmosphere. The meat shoot becomes a social activity that brings in multiple generations for a Sunday afternoon of visiting, learning, eating and drinking together.  Stories are told, children make new friends and play with others who are regulars at the matches.Older folks happily reminisce about days, hunts, and guns gone by.

The local economy is bolstered by these activities as well, and it's not just limited to the hosting establishment. The shells are purchased in bulk from local vendors. The local print shop benefits  by printing the cards/targets. Local farmers and meat markets  benefit from this activity as the meat packages are  purchased locally.  Many rural meat markets and processors have "shooting match packages" as part of their services.

A meat shoot is part of who we are. It benefits our communities on many levels.

Yet, this legislator had never heard of such a thing.

How can we expect to ever come to terms about firearms in Illinois when there is such a disconnect between the Chicagoland and their millions of votes and residents and the rest of us? 

I for one just want to publicly say thank you to the downstate legislators such as Rep. Costello for staying true to their constituents and culture and helping to educate those legislators from areas that have no idea what life below 1-80 is like!

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