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Informal Shooting Ranges Threatened by Obama

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Article by Steve Schreiner

A universal problem is emerging throughout the western United States. This region is becoming increasingly urbanized. As a result, people want to build their homes or second homes in rural areas to get away from other people. Some of them have or obtain “inholdings” right in the middle of a National Forest or very near it on the borders of National Forests. The same goes for Bureau of Land Management lands. When people do this, one of the first things to be closed down are informal, unsupervised shooting ranges. So much for the Forest Service's multiple use of forest lands policy. It plays right into the hands of anti-gun bureaucrats. Once shut down by US Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials, and no matter how many “studies” are done, the ranges are somehow never reopened for public use. BLM's policy is simple: they won't allow ranges of any sort on BLM lands; the only way to obtain a particular piece of BLM land for a range is to go through formal processes to turn that land over to another public or private organization, a process which deliberately takes forever and is very difficult to do, even if the “skids are greased.” Still, it is very nearly impossible to do, especially if you want to build a formal shooting range, let alone an informal one, which may be used on a casual and possibly frequent basis.

The USFS, on the other hand, will meet with interested groups and/or individuals on an on-going basis and describe all of their rules and regulations to anyone who will listen, in infinite detail, all the while producing no positive results, or as few as bureaucratically possible, depending on how much heat they are getting at the moment. In order to keep informal ranges closed, and to stop new ones from being opened, they will switch to other tactics, such as citing proposed problems in order to take the heat off. For instance, they have been shutting down existing informal ranges found on Forest Service land at the slightest excuse: claims of stray bullets causing near misses at nearby dwellings with no proof that such missiles are actually coming from the range area versus anywhere else in the National Forest, where general shooting may be done according to policy as part of the “multiple use” categories of activities that are permitted.

Then there is the claimed problem of trash, not only from shooting, such as expended cartridge and shell cases, paper and other kinds of targets, frames, and lead contamination. Other kinds of range trash are now defined as anything other than paper targets by the USFS. They decided to proclaim this to be so without consultation with any shooting groups or individuals, either public or private, which might have an interest in this subject. They have declared that even tin cans used for plinking since time immemorial, are trash, and you will be fined for littering if you are found plinking at them or any other object, including the latest polymer self-sealing targets.

The USFS has an additional problem with unsupervised informal ranges, claiming that they are dumping grounds for all sorts of other trash and refuse, not necessarily brought in by shooters, such as old appliances, TVs and other detritus. Here the rule is that if you find such things at a range, formal or informal, if you shoot at it, you now own it and are responsible for its removal. Unlike ski areas, camping, picnicking and fishing sites, where the USFS provides trash barrels and periodic pick-up service, they refuse to do so at informal shooting range sites.

What the USFS uses for yet another excuse to kill such proposed informal range site projects is that they want all ranges to have an on-site manager (supervisor) under contract to them, in order to allow any such range to open or remain open on USFS lands. There are no supervised/managed ranges on USFS lands anywhere in the United States, not even one. This is a “pie in the sky” approach, insisting on something they cannot have. There is no authority or funding in their 5-year plan or their budget for any such managers/supervisors, and having them on an informal range is diametrically opposed to why the range exists in the first place – an informal place to go to by yourself or with a few friends to have some fun or maybe some practice for more serious things, like getting ready for hunting season. The USFS wants someone else to pay for these managers/supervisors, such as organized gun groups either local or national (like the NRA, for instance) or the Division of Wildlife and Natural Resources, by whatever name. That is not going to happen either, because it still destroys the concept of an informal place to go shoot. These organizations and other bureaucratic entities have other things to do with their own limited funds and personnel resources.

What to do? The only way to make sure that there are a multitude of informally designated, unsupervised shooting areas on National Forest and BLM lands on a nation-wide basis is to get a cooperative Congress to pass legislation funding these two agencies and mandating them to create spaces for such ranges. The bureaucrats already know where acceptable sites are that are safe to shoot on and have them plotted on maps in their areas. Congress needs to require that such sites be incorporated into the USFS and BLM 5-year plans. Next, a cooperative U.S. president as chief executive is needed to enforce the agencies’ implementation of these plans and policies. We are dealing with very recalcitrant bureaucrats here, and they have as their agenda a long range plan to keep us from shooting on our own National Forest and BLM lands. They are steadily shutting down our shooting ranges on our public lands; it is time to stop them from implementing this stealth policy and point them in the direction we want them to go.

Steve Schreiner, a Silver Star recipient in Nam and top rated 2nd Amendment lobbyist in Colorado, is running for the NRA Board of Directors, Please vote for him...I am, RKB