Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More ranges = less deranged

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2011 at 1:18 PM

Teddy meets his maker at the old Rampart range.
  • Teddy meets his maker at the old Rampart range.
Sometimes, politicians are actually timely. This is definitely the case for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who is proposing legislation to create more shooting ranges across the state.

You see, shooting ranges might actually reduce illegal shooting. And illegal shooting has become a huge problem in our area. Let me illustrate.

Over lunch at a cafe, a friend of mine told me of a recent, scary experience.

She and her husband were bike riding up Mount Herman Road near Monument when a bullet flew near their heads. Terrified, they tried crouching down, and yelling for the shooters to stop. No one responded to their pleas and the shots continued.

I know what you're thinking. My friends must be some anti-gun radicals out to make sportsmen look bad.

Uh-uh.

Actually, both of these friends carry guns of their own. They have concealed-carry permits. And they pulled out their guns in defense during this situation.

But it wasn't clear where the bullets were coming from. They just seemed to fly out of the woods.

My friends eventually crept back to their car and called the authorities, who responded rather nonchalantly that they'd check it out.

This story isn't isolated. Rampart Range Road shooting area used to attract irresponsible shooters that would litter trash and shoot indiscriminately into areas with hiking and biking trails. We wrote about it here. The unsupervised range closed in 2009 after a shooter was accidentally shot and killed there.

Though it's illegal, shooters still go up Rampart Range Road and shoot indiscriminately, endangering others. Just as they go up Mount Herman, which has been trashed by shooters, and to several other locations. In fact, the Gazette recently ran a story about the problem.

People who enjoy the outdoors, and those who enjoy shooting, have long known about the issue. Some say it's rooted in a lack of designated — and hopefully safe — shooting ranges in the area. In fact, Colorado Springs City Councilor Lisa Czelatdko, who enjoys shooting, said shortly after her election that she hoped to open another shooting range, to provide a safe place for shooters to practice. The area already hosts several private ranges, but not enough to meet the apparent demand.

The question is, will efforts to provide more facilities really solve the problem? Probably not. Even advocates for shooters admit that some "sportsmen" just aren't responsible. They want to get drunk and go shoot up an old refrigerator. And more shooting ranges isn't going to alter that rotten behavior.

But for the average shooter, who takes the sport seriously, the thought is that more ranges could make a difference.

Udall Bill Aims to Create Safe Public Shooting Ranges

Today, Mark Udall re-introduced legislation to help states construct and maintain safe public shooting ranges. The bill, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, would help ensure that there are enough accessible ranges where hunters and marksmen can safely practice recreational shooting.

Under current law — the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act — an excise tax is collected on sporting equipment and ammunition, which states can use for activities such as wildlife restoration and hunter education programs. However, it has limited effectiveness in establishing and maintaining shooting ranges, which are declining in number. Udall’s Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, co-sponsored by Senators Jim Risch, Michael Bennet and Jon Tester, would amend the law to give states more flexibility to use existing funds to create and maintain shooting ranges.

“The number of places in our communities and on public lands where Colorado sportsmen and women can safely shoot and target practice has steadily dwindled,” Udall said. “This bill would give states more flexibility to use federal dollars — that have already been allocated to them — to create safe, new public places to shoot. It would be a triple win for sporting and conservation communities: states can create higher quality and safer shooting ranges, more Coloradans can take up the sport, and it would generate more money for future conservation and hunter education efforts.”

Udall’s bill would:
• Increase the amount of money states can use from their allotted Pittman-Robertson funds to 90 percent, from 75 percent, to improve or construct a public target range. This would reduce the amount of other funds states would have to raise for shooting ranges to 10 percent, from 25 percent.

• Allow the Pittman-Robertson funds allotted to a state to remain available and accrue for five fiscal years for use in acquiring land for, expanding, or constructing a public target range on federal or non-federal land. Under current law, states must use these funds within one year.

• Limit the legal liability exposure to the federal land management agencies regarding the management and use of federal land for target practice or marksmanship training.

• Encourage the federal land management agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain target ranges on federal land so as to encourage their continued use.

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