By Jorge Amselle
Guns are bad, liberals argue, because they are dangerous and people with guns are unsafe. Just look at all the children who shoot themselves or someone else with a gun they found, left loaded and unattended by an irresponsible gun owner, they claim. Their solution is to try and ban guns of course and, barring that, shut down gun ranges and shooting facilities.
In typical single minded progressive tantrum mode these activists either don’t realize or don’t care that making it harder for people to find places where they can get firearms training does nothing to contribute to gun safety. In many places you would have an easier time opening up a drive through strip club/liquor store/marijuana dispensary next to a church and across the street form an elementary school than trying to start a shooting range.
Andy Massimilian has been trying to open up a shooting range complex in rural Ransom Township Pennsylvania for years. He found a 600 acre property next to a landfill and a cemetery which he purchased after checking all of the state and local zoning laws. When neighbors found out about his plans for the property trouble began with wild rumors of militia/paramilitary activity. Organized protests at public meetings followed as well as anonymous fliers accusing him of all sorts of things (including being from New York which was the one accurate detail).
His range proposal was subjected to intentional and unjustified administrative delays, as well as extensive challenges on trumped up accusations of safety, environmental and noise violations. He was forced to hire an engineer selected by the township and who grossly overcharged. State police, Homeland Security and even the FBI were contacted and asked to investigate “terrorist” activities at the site and by the owners. The state highway commission and the FAA were asked to investigate the impact of a shooting range on their operations miles away.
Massimilian had parked a few old surplus army trucks on the property which were subsequently shot full of bullet holes with a death threat left behind just in case the vandalism wasn’t clear enough. He had to sue several individuals for damaging his business by spreading false rumors and misinformation. Trying to shut down the project the township even offered to buy him out at one point. I asked him “why didn’t you just take the money?” Andy said “I have too much time and energy invested to try and find another suitable property just to start from scratch again.”
The worst part so far has been the lack of support from some gun owners. Andy was told that if the range was not going to be open to the public they would not help. Area gun clubs were also told that they would lose membership and business to this new start up. All of this is happening right now in supposedly gun-friendly Pennsylvania but Andy’s experience is far from unique.
In somewhat less gun-friendly Colorado, another long-time friend is trying to open a large indoor/outdoor range complex outside Denver. The plan is to build a world-class shooting and training facility for law enforcement and civilians with extra care taken to be environmental (using only lead free ammunition) and to limit noise. Yet after investing heavily in planning and development and in finding a suitable piece of property the entire process was halted during public hearings. Anti-gun zealots bussed in hundreds of people from out of town to pack the hearings and swamped government officials with opposition e-mails. Again, support from gun owners was disappointing at best.
He is going through the process once more from scratch in a different town but unless gun owners start getting a lot more active in defending shooting ranges this attempt may also fail. Progressive activists believe that making life difficult for gun owners in any way possible will reduce our numbers and they are right. Loosing access to safe and well-designed ranges where people can shoot or train is a disaster for all gun owners. Zoning meetings may seem dull but this is where the rubber meets the road and gun owners need to get involved.
Jorge Amselle is a certified firearms instructor and writer covering all aspects of the industry from military and law enforcement firearms and training to the shooting sports. His youtube channel is http://www.youtube.com/amselle.