Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gun Range Owner Says He's Unfairly Targeted

The Galveston County Daily News

It's an old, yet sadly familiar story:
LEAGUE CITY (Texas) — Records show that top city officials spent at least seven months discussing how to shut down a gun range, a move range owner Ernest Randall says is aimed at helping a developer build homes in the area.

City Attorney Dick Gregg’s billing records show he participated in a series of meetings about how to “characterize a gun range as a nuisance and ultimately have it removed.” The legal fees cost taxpayers more than $6,000 from May to November.

Involved in the planning were Mayor Jerry Shults, City Administrator Chris Reed, other senior staff members and developer Sam Boyd, who gave $4,000 to Shults’ campaign in August 2005.

The records show Gregg billed the city for gun range discussions with the mayor at least seven times and for conversations with Boyd at least five times.
In NW Oregon, of the six outdoor ranges within 100 miles of my home, two of them are under repeated attack by private individuals (or companies) who want long-established gun clubs to shut down their range.

Shooting ranges take up a lot of land, not only because the 'old established' ranges started when rural property was relatively inexpensive; not only because they need room for future expansion (including parking and new bays to accommodate new Competitive Shooting Sports); but also because as long as a box of .22 rimfire ammunition is marked "Range: 1-1/2 miles Be Careful", a shooting range needs to control access to its downrange area.

But as towns and cities grow their populations, the suburbs spread out to where they often infringe closely on the land owned by gun clubs, and the residents in these new developments are not happy with the sound of gunshots on a Saturday Morning as they mow their lawns and watch their children play in the back yard.

More frequently, the source of litigation isn't from established residences. It's from land developers who buy property immediately adjacent to shooting ranges with the expectation that,
by complaining to EPA and otherwise bringing governmental pressure to bear against long-established shooting ranges, they can drive the gun clubs out of business and realize a substantial increase in the value of their property AFTER they build new residences there.

Their investment in these civil actions is not often as high as what it costs gun clubs to defend against them, or to modify their shooting ranges to accommodate new environmental or residential situations. Many ranges have been closed in recent years, not because they actually constitute a hazard to their surroundings, but because they don't have the 'deep pockets' necessary to defend themselves against nuisance lawsuits or civil actions.

More, with increasing awareness of (for example) polution of waterways by lead deposits, and potential disruption of wildlife movement, the Environmental Protection Agency is sometimes called in to add more pressure against gun clubs who have their own outdoor shooting range.

According to the National Association of Shooting Ranges (NASR), in a 1996 article titled "Case Studies: How Ranges Manage to Stay Open or Re-Open",
EPA is not out inspecting on their own. They go out because an angry neighbor called, and the neighbor is angry about an entirely different issue such as sound or club members' bad attitudes.
NASR, in the same article, offers a 'bad' case study, and also a number of suggested guidelines to follow in operating a shooting range:

- Conduct yourself in a professional manner.

- Be a responsible member of your community and operate your club with professionalism.

- Get proactive.

- Establish your club as an asset to the community.

- Support youth activities and offer your range or clubhouse as a meeting place. Boy Scouts, 4-H, American Legion all have shooting programs for kids.

- Schedule hunter education classes through your state's hunter education coordinator. Many classes have live fire as part of the course. Offer your range and clubhouse.

- Consider having a ladies shooting activity. Call NRA Women's Issues or the Training Department for information on Refuse to Be A Victim or a personal protection course, taught by women for women. Do not be disappointed if the first try does not yield the expected results. Keep trying. Call NRA at 703-267-1414.

- Get to know your neighbors.

- Invite them to club functions.

- Be prepared to discuss any issues they may have concerning safety or operations.

- Always try to resolve their concerns in a respectful manner.

- Advertise your presence.

- Billboards or signs let people driving by know you are there. (Could be the couple buying the lot next door.)

- Keep projectiles on your property.

- If you are shooting lead shot into water-STOP! Change direction, change to steel or Bismuth, but change. You are headed for a predicable result that will not be pleasant.

In the meantime, the Main Steam Media (here, the International Herald Tribune) equates going to a shooting range with "... 'car bowling', in which low-flying pilots drop bowling balls on cars parked on the runways of (hopefully) little-used private airstrips."

Message delivered: You're a shooter? You're a vandal.

No wonder we can't get a fair shake in our own community.

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