A private, not-for-profit shooting range in Durango, Colo., backed off its requirement for members to join the National Rifle Association after the city threatened to evict the business from the property it owns.
In December, Durango Gun Club owner John Malarsie mandated that its members join the NRA so the club could pursue a grant from the gun-rights organization, according to the Durango Herald. But the city, which leases an indoor shooting range to the club for free, drew a line in the sand.
City Manager Ron LeBlanc told the paper he’d received complaints from citizens who felt the city was subsidizing political speech.
“We told them either to stop or get evicted,” LeBlanc said. “I think that’s pretty clear.”
This week, Malarsie said in a letter to the city that he is dropping the 100-percent NRA membership requirement, writing that it wasn’t the club’s “intention or purpose to promote or advance what you describe as the NRA’s extreme political agenda.”
The NRA has had a high profile in Colorado since gun-rights advocates moved to recall several Democrats who voted in favor of strict new gun laws last year. Durango Rep. Mike McLachlan was among those initially targeted, although ultimately not enough signatures were collected to force a recall election against him.
Gun rights supporters successfully recalled Democratic senators from Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and forced another to resign in the face of a third election.
LeBlanc told the Herald that city leaders weren’t afraid to stand up the NRA.
“Do you think the NRA is going to act out and have some sort of repudiation for city officials?” he said. “Yes, that’s always a risk — that’s their modus operandi. But we’re not going to back down or not do the right thing because of that.”
The Durango Gun Club has been getting free rent from the city since 1963, the paper reported, and seems to have a good reputation in the community.
“Durango Parks & Recreation Director Cathy Metz described the club as a wonderful tenant,” the paper reported.
But LeBlanc also said the overwhelming response from citizens was supportive of the threat to evict.
The gun club also leases land for an outdoor range from the county for $1 per year.
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