Skip to comments.Out of Range (The Anti Self-Defense lobby's war on shooting ranges)
Posted on 04/06/2002 5:10:09 PM PST by Dan from Michigan
If there were no paved roads, what would you do with your car? And if there were no places to shoot, how would you exercise your Second Amendment Rights? The right to keep and bear arms may have nothing to do with target shooting, hunting, or the shooting sports. But when a shooting range is shut down, shooters lose a place to learn safety, gun owners lose a place to practice, and in many cases, our firearm freedoms lose constituents, as one by one, shooters give up their sport.
All around America, as cities spread and surburbs sprawl, anti-gun forces are misusing noise nuisance lawsuits, zoning restrictions, ever-stricter environmental laws, and other bureaucratic restrictions to put shooting ranges on the run.
And although there's nothing we can do to stop the march of property development, there's a lot we can and we are doing to stop those who misuse laws and regulations to chase shooting ranges out of town or out of business.
Attacks on shooting ranges follow a familiar pattern. A standard strategy of attrition against gun owners and their rights is to make shooting require more time, trouble, expense, hassle, and red tape all the time. Lawsuits and the expenses of mounting a legal defense add costs. Zoning and environmental laws add red tape. Forcing a range to relocate further away from the residents who use it adds time, trouble, and expense to the shooting sports for them.
By chipping away at the places, times, and types of recreational shooting availible, those who distrust our freedoms can slowly strangle them out of our culture. It just becomes too much hassle. And it's happeningat too many shooting ranges today.
Grandfathers give it up, sell off the reloading equipment and relegate that old target gun to the back of a cobwebby closet. Young people lose the opprotunity to try shooting in a safe, supervised, and educational atmosphere. And slowly-the anti-gun crowd hopes- this uniquely American heritage is bred out of us, as forgotten as the long-gone family ancestors you wish you had written down when someone still remembered their names.
According to the International Fish and Wildlife Agencies, between 1996 and 1999, at least 30 shooting ranges were closed in 19 states. What many gun owners don't realize is that many of those ranges are built with the Pittman-Robinson excise taxes collected on sales of firearms and ammunition. Which means that when such a shooting range is closed, hunters and gun owners are being effectively robbed.
In Maryland, about half the ranges in the entire state have either closed or moved in the past 20 years. Nationally, 45 out of 50 state fish and game agencies reported a significant need for additional ranges.
Which makes sense. After all, the number of American shooters has taken off like a bullet, up 40 percent in the last five years, to 15.4 million in 2000, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates. But range space and time may not be keeping up.
Development is one of the biggest pressures. According to the Department of Agriculture, between the late 1980's and the mid 1990's, the pace of development nationwide increased by 50 percent to 2.2 million acres per year. As cities expand into suburbs and farmland is soddled and paved, shooting ranges that have operated for decades are finding themselves in the middle of strip malls and cloverleafs surrounded by ex-urban newcomers unaccustomed and uncomfortable with the shooting sports.
East of Seattle, Microsoft's hometown of Redmond Washington, for example , is preparing to annex land were the Interlake Sporting Association has operated a range since the 1950's.
Once the Interlake range is swallowed up by Redmond, it's unclear what will happen, but it won't be cheap. If the range owners were to sell, that would threaten or complicate their non-profit status. They can't move since under a new law, the zoning classification required to build a shooting range no longer exists. And they can't shut down, because they'd have to reimburse the state for the matching grants they've received for range improvement. And those dollars are already invested in infrastructure for the range. "It's a catch-22," said Rick Raymond, the club's president. "They nickle and dime you to death. We've spent $60,000 to $70,000 so far just to comply with all their regulations and requirements.
But sometimes, that's just the point.
Lawyers fought it out for two years before the developers dropped the suit. But even though the suit was dropped, Raymond estimates it cost the club $30,000-$40,000 in legal fees just to defend itself. And those fees wern't reimbursed.
"Our club almost went broke," said Jay Spitz, former president of the Naperville Sportsman's Club, about 20 miles west of Chicago, which found itself in a similar situation. They'd operated a trap-shooting range for shotgunners since 1948, but then a disgruntled neighbor enlisted an attorney and filed a federal suit claiming the range contaminated groundwater.
Illinois authorities already had an oversight role at the range. They'd never found any groundwater contamination. Still, as long as attorneys could tie the case up in court, the range couldn't operate. Thirty-Two months later, and $20,000 in legal fees poorer, the club was allowed to resume operations.
The bottom line: There was no groundwater contamination. The "wetland" amounted to a ditch. And the ditch was dry for months at a time. "That little piece of land of ground in Naperville had to be the most tested piece of ground on earth," said club member Arthur Jablonski. In the end, the club switched to steel shot ammunition, and trapshooting, though more pricey, went on as before.
In all too many cases, when plaintiffs try to close a range, their complaints are baseless and concerns off base. Safety is often invoked as a reason to close a range, and those who don't know about shooting ranges often think of them as dangerous places. But an extensive search of newspapers, magazines, adn newscasts suggests that accidental shootings at ranges are extraordinairily rare, surely rarer than the 10 to 20 accidental fatalities among high school and college football players each year.
Noise levels, too, are a common complaint, but at many ranges, they don't exceed the "background noise" at the site. A 4-H skeet field outside of Atlanta was under attack for noise, until one of the club's coaches took a sound meter and showed that the gunfire noise escaping the range measured lower than the traffic on a nearby road.
Unfortunatly, it's often not the noise, environment, or safety concerns that drive people to go after target ranges. It's just that they don't like firearms--and they see noise ordinances, zoning restrictions, and environmental laws in their arsenal(Dan: - VPC does this with shooting ranges).
Shooting ranges need protection. That much is clear. The NRA-ILA has worked with state legislatures for nearly a decade to protect ranges -- and with truely astonishing success. Over the past 7 years alone, 36 states have passed laws to protect shooting ranges from nuisance lawsuits. Now 44 states have range-protection laws.
Randy Kozuch, director of ILA State and Local affairs, said it's one of his primary priorities.
"Six states still don't have range protection laws, and we're going to do all we can to win it as many as we can," he said. "Young people and other shooters need ranges to learn safety. Recreational shooters need ranges to practice their sport. And in an indirect, but decisive way, our Second Amendment hinges on there being people who participate in the shooting sports, and places for them to do so. So we're going to see to it that the facilities they need aren't shut down for no good reason."
This is where NRA's range technical team really excels. Dave Willis, a former MArine Corps range coordinator, has assisted everyoen from the US Military to the US EPA on how to design, build, manage, and maintain safe, environmentally complaint shooting ranges. Today he serves in the NRA's Range Services Department which is emerging as the de facto national trend-setter for safe operation and sound design.
Jack Giordano, a former policeman for the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York, is the volunteer eastern region supervisor for the NRA's Range Technical Team. "We've saved a lot of ranges," he said. "I personally know of at least 10 ranges where if the NRA wern't involved, they would have been shut down."
For ranges facing frivolous lawsuits, the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund can also be a valuable ally. Over the years, the NRACDF has offered legal advice and even helped cover the costs of legal defense for many ranges across the country with its discretionairy funding.
Legally, legislatively, tactically, and technically, no one does more than the NRA to make sure shooting ranges are safely managed, soundly designed, welcolme contributors to communities across America. Shooting ranges have been a prime concern of this organization since its beginning, and we'll continue that tradition with pride in the positive public service that it is.
More importantly, learn about your township boards, city councils, and county commishioners views on guns. Much of the zoning laws and the like are on that level, not to mention that todays township supervisor is tomorrow's state rep.
I haven't heard of range closing in Livingston County, but when I was growing up there, there was 100,000 people in the county. Now there is 150,000+ and and is rapidly developing. IT's becoming suburbia. I used to be able to hunt across the street from my dad's house. Not anymore. Too many homes.
We need to make more inroads in the cities in the shooting sports, and we need to control sprawl as well. This is a conservative issue.
I don't believe it. The anti-gun people would never misuse the legal system to harass people who are politically inconvenient in order to push their agenda. /sarcasm
Most of the "sportsman's clubs" in the area are nothing more than drinking teams with hunting and fishing problems, and their yearly fees are outrageous with sometimes a year or two waiting list just to get in - provided you have the bucks.
However, there is a country store/gun shop just down the road from me where the owner lets me shoot out back. (My wife works there and I'm one of his best customers.) It's only 100 yds, but a good place to shoot handguns or get a new scope to hit the paper. I just recently did some work for a fellow who owns land near the Licking River (yes, that's the real name). By my best estimate so far, his flats along the river are in the 400+ yd. range. I offered to pay him to use the area. He only asked that I don't drink or litter in the area. I told him the only sign of me being there would be an occasional stray casing. The .308 will surely get a workout this summer.
Finding a decent range to shoot is sometimes frustrating - even though I live in the country. Since I'm a strong supporter of private property rights, I don't think fighting "urban sprawl" is necessarily the answer. If someone wants to develop his land, that's his right. I think once the anti's get the "environmental hazard" ball rolling to shut down ranges, urban sprawl will be the least of our worries.
Any of you guys have problems finding a suitable range? When it comes time for me to buy another house, range area will be priority number one.
Developers built condos next door so it's only a matter of time.
To build a new indoor range will cost over a million dollars.
The city is so pillaged by the Campbell administration that the force is some 300 under staffed.
Do you think they will have the money for a new range?
In Lansing, I'm about 1/2 hour from a fairly range in Eaton Rapids, Family Shooter's Corral. I'm 15 minutes from Total Firearms in Mason, which has a good indoor. There's also Capitol City in Williamston nearby.
Luckily outside of NW Ingham County, there is still much rural area, especially compared to the Detroit Area.
Nope. Got 38 acres. It's good to live in the woods.
My goal: to live where I can open my back door and p*ss if I want to.
Back in the sixties and seventies I could get in a car, ride a little out of town and set up a range in the woods or field. Now I have an 11 year old son and I can only take him to an indoor range. He doesn't like it and I don't blame him because feral jocks bring 45-70 or whatever pistols to the range and make the place sound like a nuclear test site. We just want to shoot our .22's, .410's and .38's. But we have nowhere to go. I think NRA needs to do something like the Nature Conservancy and buy land that people can shoot on. I know that I give minimal to the NRA but I will give all I can to an effort like this.
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