Heard on the Hill

The sportsmen of Congress will name their next Top Gun

They’re looking sharp on the range, fresh off a legislative win

Rep. Collin C. Peterson loads his gun at 2004’s competition in Glenn Dale, Maryland. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican and Democratic lawmakers will hit the gun range today for a (friendly?) sharpshooting competition to determine yearlong bragging rights over who is the best at blasting objects out of the sky.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus’s annual clay shoot (formerly known as the Congressional Shootout) is a chance for lawmakers to kick back in an atmosphere of loud bangs, where gun smoke permeates the air and the scent of rotten eggs tickles the nostrils.

“The best part about this event is seeing the members get together and enjoy each other’s company in a nonpartisan manner,” says caucus spokeswoman Sara Leonard. Lawmakers can be found “sharing photos of their latest harvest, and making plans to visit the other states for a hunting or fishing trip.”

The competition takes place in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and draws lawmakers and industry representatives from companies such as Bass Pro Shops and Shell Oil and interest groups such as Safari Club International, which lobbies on behalf of hunters. Contestants are separated by skill level (beginners and experienced), and some compete in teams.

But lawmakers participating in the shootout this year will be doing more than performing their best Annie Oakley impersonations. They’ll also be celebrating passage of their bill expanding federal funding for public gun ranges.

The new law, signed Friday by President Donald Trump, lets states use federal funds to cover up to 90 percent of the construction and expansion costs of public target ranges, rather than the 75 percent under previous law. And instead of having to complete these projects in two-year windows, states now have five years.

Last year Rep. John Rutherford of Florida took home “Top Gun” honors for the best overall marksmen in Congress. Meanwhile, California Rep. Mike Thompson was the top overall Democrat. Other awards are handed out to the top skeet, trap and clay shooters.

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