Busting Some Clays

Emma Burns takes aim for her first shot of the 2016 NVWG. Photo by Audrey Nissen

Trapshooter Emma Burns crosses 'the pond' to compete at NVWG for ninth year

The sun beat down as clay targets flew through the air at the Lee Kay Shooting Range in Salt Lake City Friday.

The trapshooting event at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, co-sponsored by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), featured 55 participants, who shot at 50 targets. Shooters who hit more than 50% of the targets moved on to a second round of 50, and they only shot from the 16-yard line. 

Emma Burns, who was the sole female trapshooter, traveled from Great Britain with 16 other members of the British Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association to attend her ninth Games.

British citizen Emma Burns competing in the 2016 NVWG in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo by Audrey Nissen

She said it was a bit disappointing that she was the only woman.

“They don’t know what they’re missing, do they?” she said. “I think sometimes when it comes to some of the sports the women choose, they go with what they know rather than something new to them.”

Burns, who originally hails from Northern Ireland and is a veteran of the Royal Navy, typically shoots rifles and airsoft guns. She only gets the chance to shoot trap at the Games.

“It’s something that because our laws are different, [trap is] harder to get into on the accessible side,” she said. “The laws don’t apply the same at home as they do here. Where I live there’s a lot of shotguns, but not trap or sport shooting because it’s farming area. So you have a lot of pests [foxes and pigeons to shoot], but not a lot of sporting.”

Burns, a T-10 paraplegic, said the 12-gauge shotgun she borrowed was a bit heavy for her. She hit just 12 targets but said for her, the Games is always about the people.

“It’s more important that people get encouraged to get active and to interact than it is to win,” she said. “Winning’s nice, but that’s not what it’s about. You have to make sure you get that over to novices. A lot of people, like myself, when you’re first injured, you’re like a groundhog. You just crawl back into your hole and wait for it all to be over. That’s existing, that’s not living.”

Burns is definitely living — she said she just graduated from college with a degree in ergonomics. She said her greatest accomplishment has been helping others.

“There’s a few people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life that I’ve been able to make theirs a little bit better… I kind of know what it’s like to be in their place, and some days get pretty dark,” she said. “It’s always nice for there to be somebody who gets where you’re coming from, because it’s a complete change. The military teaches you to be self-reliant but also teaches you that you’ve always got more brothers and sisters than you can imagine.”

In the future, Burns said she wants to try more new things, including completing a tandem skydive on Saturday. She also loves to travel and meet new people.

“It wasn’t quite where I thought my life was going to head when I was like 19, but I’ve never been much for ‘why me?,’ purely because I’d never be places like this otherwise,” she said. “I don’t know too many people who’ve been to Alaska or Milwaukee [Wis.], and I’ve met so many awesome people.”


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