Monday, April 12, 2010

Still Running Like Crazy!

That's an accurate illustration of me these travel schedule scares me, and I'm supposed to be used to it!!!

When I light someplace, I plan to put together an open letter to NSSF, the NRA and the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation outlining the issues I think we all face — based on your excellent comments, first and foremost the shortage of ranges  — and a viable solution for those problems. My thinking on the solution is 30% of Pittman-Robertson, effective for the 2009 collections (which show the windfall 29% increase driven by our money). That should amount to $120 million the first year, which would translate into the beginnings of a Ben Avery-style range in every state in the Union.

I will suggest that NSSF's range planners create a model that states can work from. I will also suggest that the money be contingent on ranges offering programs for handguns, rifles and shotguns — a skeet field alone isn't a range in the sense that we are talking about it here. To be funded a range must also make provisions for outside training to be available.

Does that about sum it up?????


Anonymous said...

How about ranges at Wildlife Management Areas? How about at state and national parks? We the public already own the land.

Bitter said...

How are you going to convince states to put up the money in order to qualify for the match requirements? I've seen some chatter about some states not being able to afford the matching requirements to even be able to take their apportionment.

Any serious proposal is going to have to include an analysis of state budgets, too. You'll have to convince state legislators that they should put up the first dollar to be matched for ranges while they are busy slashing budgets that many voters consider more vital like education, infrastructure, and dealing with pension crises.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I dunno, how about the hunting license monies they've been siphoning off for years now? and other fees that were earmarked for the outdoors?

Bitter said...

That money isn't there now. And if a state was swiping outdoor license fee funds, why didn't local sportsmen work to oppose it before the money was spent? It worked in Massachusetts when Mitt orchestrated the stealing of all the outdoor funds - including what the feds gave in matching grants - before sportsmen filed complaints with the feds that ultimately resulted in lawsuit threats and an immediate reversal of the administration's position.

If you actually want to get something done, you have to work with what the states have now. It's not the time to rehash old debates if the resources are already gone. Start from the current political reality and then you might be able to make a difference.

Perhaps all of this has been accounted for in Michael's future letter. That's just the giant elephant in the room given that these are matching funds.

Look at it this way, every week there's a protest going on somewhere in the country by folks on the right and left demanding either general spending cuts or no cuts to their pet "vital" services. You don't see protests every week, month, or even year, demanding more government spending on ranges. It's going to be very hard for any lawmaker or bureaucrat to justify added spending right now, so it's just a reality that must be faced when dealing with this problem. Complaining about the past won't change that fact.

Frank W. James said...

Michael: Bitter makes an extremely strong point and a good one. I believe range development is the No. 1 need facing all shooters for the future, but she makes a good point that essentially you can't get blood out of a turnip when looking at state budgets.

I personally think the urban parks & recreations departments are a possile alternative if the states required too much funding. Cities have a higher concentration per mile of people.....Most of whom in various areas are already possessing CCW licenses or permits and TRULY NEED A PLACE TO SHOOT, but I'm no rocket scientist or politician.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

clark myers said...

Before doing a final draft - really really need to look at the record when Dave Parsons (long since retired) and other NRA folks and field reps were working hard to get ranges built - at the time when the land was still available.

I've had handout packets of letter size paper an inch thick from the NRA for local clubs and state associations on getting ranges built. Also of course the NRA offered help with insurance - It's not as if the effort and knowledged wasn't there and can be again - it's a matter of emphasis - too many mover's and shakers have a place to shoot - beware something like asking the members at Augusta to sponsor a public links course. There was an effort to have indoor shooting as snowball equivalents (iceballs) to compete with bowling alleys and mosquito clay birds. The places to shoot priority is due and overdue but some new emphasis or angle or approach will keep it from fizzling once again.

Pathfinder said...

Forget about making it dependent on matching grants from the state for the first 3-5 years - make it a special grant program, making it all about taking the money and putting it to use in building ranges and organizations to run them - without interference.

I'm sure that violates some rule, but I had to put it out there. Rules can be over-riden, even at the Fed level, for a short time.

I would also add that the ranges, in addition to being 3-gun friendly, also need to be multi-use. I am not interested in a paper target only range, I want one that can be used with paper, poppers and clangers, IPSC / IDPA / SASS capable as well - all 3 guns. That needs to be built into the model from whomever, and inviolate.

People who get the money locally will try to eff with it - the program, proposal and model needs to be fairly complete and inflexible as far as changing the range's use of the money is concerned.

Ulmus said...

This might sound out there, but how about using some of that money to buy up some now empty "big box" stores or factories and convert them into indoor urban/suburban shooting ranges?

They might not be large enough for 1,000 yard range shots or high powered rifles, but they could be properly set up for some action shooting, defensive shooting, and plinking ranges.

This would also bring them closer to the average person and, for those in abandoned factories, noise-zoning-and other arguments are easier to defeat.

Michael Bane said...

So Bitter, any suggestions other than doing the same thing we've always done and stand by while taxes we pay buy more duck habitat? I'm open to and I have both been insiders, and we've seen what goes on behind the curtain. Our experiences have, however, diverged.

Most of the things I've accomplished - and frankly I've done a pretty good job on that side of the scale - have happen despite and in spite of numerous thoughtful and intelligent people, both friends and not-so-friendlies, explaining to me in excrutuatingly simple terms that even an idiot like myself could understand why what I wanted to do was impossible, unlikely, not going to happen, out of the question and occasionally insane. And yet...and yet...

My experience has been that things don't seem possible because of -may the god of buzz words clutch me to Her bosom - a person's fixed paradigms. In the mid-1980s, concealed carry was impossible, just flat out totally impossible. A political impossibility...maybe if we all worked hard for 10 or 20 more years, we were told again and again, the Grand Poohbahs in Talahassee would listen and make a few "reasonable" changes. Hmmmmmm...

Yes, these are hard times, but there are opportunities in hard times that aren't available when people are fat and happy - look at what's happening on both ends of the political spectrum in our country right now.

The floor's yours...


eeyore said...

I don't think it's added spending for ranges, Bitter. It's shifting current monies. Of course, something else loses. Here in NC, you might actually have to pay a couple of bucks for your Hunter Safety Course and the materials that go along with it, instead of it being completely free. And I can see the Wildlife people not wanting to give anything up.

The administrators will be adamant, but hunters themselves might be more cooperative. A lot of shooters aren't necessarily hunters, but I think a lot of hunters are shooters.

And Michael, Your idea of an open letter sounds good - I hope it makes it into ALL the NRA mags. Also, I haven't taken the NRA Range Development Course, or read the Source Book, but shouldn't the NRA be encouraged to emphasize the same priorities (if they don't already)?

Anonymous said...

New range development is a marketing problem that requires a marketing solution. Very often, when budgets are tight and local anti-gun sentiment is high, one can make the case for a new range more palatable, more essential, and more indispensable by at least partially "selling in" the new range as a firearms training facility.

For example, here in Oregon, I belong to the
"Tri-County Gun Club and Firearms Training Facility", which has excellent facilities and competitive events for all rifle, pistol and shotgun disciplines.

Training is the magic word. Politicians understand the need for training, which connotes safety and responsibility. While local law enforcement loves having another place to maintain proficiency.

Branding yourself as a firearms training facility is also a great defensive move. Because while it's relatively easy for politicians to shut down a range, the going gets considerably more difficult when you're talking about shutting down a training facility.

Clint said...

With all due respect Mr. Bane, Bitter asked You a question.
“How are you going to convince states to put up the money in order to qualify for the match requirements? “
Which you have not answered.

Your plan, good as it is, has a hitch It requires federal action with state approval when states are in no place to approve anything.

The proper way to prove naysayers wrong is to have a plan, not to go jumping off a cliff then figuring out how to land. CCW was not groping in the dark. It was a slow, methodical process. There was a plan. You've done this dance before, you know this stuff, so what is the plan?

If you were to tell a friend you are driving from “A” to “B” via the highway and your friend tells you the highway is closed in the middle due to construction; you do NOT say “Why do you gotta be negative?!”

What you DO say is “OK, I'll check the map and find a detour, thanks for the heads up.”

Remember also, that you are in the West. You have more leeway in range building and (generally) less hostile politicians. You have the land. You “just” need the money. Here in the East we have it a bit different.

Your plan, what you have relieved to us, has us Easterners in a bad place. The price of guns and ammo goes up about 1/6th and then the state gov spends the money on buying land that is off limits to hunting or some crazy-eco-nut-green-peacenik nonsense. Then the politicians brag about how environmental there are. Remember what you said about wetlands? What are the other ways they can spend RP money without helping shooters?

Clint said...

“ about the hunting license monies they've been siphoning off for years now? and other fees that were earmarked for the outdoors? “

We might be able to use this problem to fix the other problem. If a state has put RP and other “outdoor use” moneys into the general fund, a campaign can be started to earmark these moneys for their proper purpose.

This counters the “Where do you think we can get “new” money for ranges from?” questions.

“You know that X percent you've been collecting? Well, now you get to spend it on what it was originally for in the first place. You don't have to find “new” money, just spend the money you're already getting the way you're obligated to. :)

So what comes first the chicken or the egg?

Jim Heffelfinger said...

Michael -

I took great interest in this episode for several reasons: I am a former USPSA competitor, current IDPA Competitor (2nd place in last year's AZ State Championship for CDP-SS Division), serious gun rights advocate, CCW holder, professional wildlife biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, hunter, hunting mentor, pro-hunting advocate, reloader, and my paycheck comes from Pittman-Robertson (PR) funds. I think you can see how your podcast may have interested me.

I agree whole-heartedly that the Second Amendment is not about duck hunting. My 18-year-old also shoots IDPA with me and we buy a lot of shooting equipment, reloading components, and send a lot of ammo down range that has nothing to do with hunting. We drive 30 minutes to shoot so I understand some of your frustrations with a lack of shooting ranges (although you exaggerated how hard it is to get a membership to one).

I would like to see all state wildlife agencies be more aggressive in establishing new ranges. Having said that, I know from sitting in many commission meetings that the Arizona Game and Fish Department has been very aggressive in not only building the world-class Ben Avery Shooting Facility that you mentioned, but I have seen them battle community after community to establish new shooting ranges and to preserve others coming under attack from the increasing urban perimeters. I know the Tucson office I work in has been battling the US Forest Service, the County, and homeowners for the 18 years I have worked here on behalf of shooters (not just hunters).

I know from personal experience that the range I belong to (Pima Pistol Club) and others in/near Tucson that I occasionally use (Tucson Rifle Club, Southeast Regional Park Shooting Range, Marana Shooting Club, Tucson Mountain Park) have had major improvements in the last 5 years and nearly all those were paid for with PR funds. There seems to be a lot of grants available for shooting ranges. The Southeast Regional Park Shooting Range is a fantastic facility. The Marana Shooting Club is only minutes from my home but I have an annual membership elsewhere because they don't have IDPA matches. There are actually a lot of opportunities to shoot around Tucson and they are being visibly and significantly improved with PR funds. I used to live in a rural area, while ranges were few, I had no problem finding a safe place to shoot nearby. Your discussion of the difficulty of finding a safe place to shoot out in the boonies was a weak argument at best.

When I have meetings at our state office, I use my lunchbreak to shoot at the Ben Avery facility even though the AZ Game & Fish Department charges their own people $7 to shoot for 45 minutes on a lunch break. With a business model like that is not hard to see why they make so much money. Many ranges that I see do not make money due to being run by people who don't seem to know how to run a business.


Jim Heffelfinger said...

I think where your argument is weakest is when you talk about the black rifle owners and self defense gun owners as if they are a different people than hunters, and a competing segment of gun owners. You reported that 76% of people who bought guns in 2009 did so for self defense or personal protection. I know you understand that last year was unusual (to say the least) when it comes to firearms sales. With the election of President Obama, many hunters, and others, bought Sport/Utility rifles with AR or AK in their name, semiautos, and high capacity handguns. Thousands bought guns they normally would not have. I am no exception: I built an AR, purchased a hi-cap 9mm with 4 spare mags, a hi-cap .45 with 4 spare mags, and was one of hundreds of thousands waiting for my 30-rd PMAGS to come in. I think you are smart enough to know 2009 was not representative of shooting sports from now on, but a unique phenomenon driven by political events. I doubt anyone ran out to get a bolt action rifle in 2009 before they were outlawed. I know many people that wanted a bolt action rifle last year, but decided to spend their money on something they may not be able to get if they waited.

The NSSF survey was not a random survey of shooters or gun owners or any population, it was an on-line survey where respondents who felt like offering their opinion did so. All reputable human dimensions experts will tell you that does not represent any population as a whole and can not be extrapolated. It simply tells you about those who responded. Also, do you think those surfing the NSSF website represented all gun owners, or a disproportionate number of non-hunting shooters (National Shooting Sports Foundation). The NSSF is not an entity that most hunters go to when on the web, but shooters are very familiar with the NSSF. It is no surprise to me that hunting was not more strongly represented in that survey conducted the way it was.

I know you are not anti-hunting, but your suggestion to earmark 30% of PR funds for shooters is not supported by any permanent shift, but a 2009 blip. You probably realize that cutting wildlife conservation dollars will have negative consequences that will be defended not by hunters but by the American people who enjoy wildlife. I don't understand why non-hunting shooters would put themselves in that position. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the most successful system of wildlife conservation ever devised and is now the envy of most other nations. No other system has resulted in such an incredible complement of native wildlife in near native habitat. Non-hunting shooters should be proud to be a part of that. In my opinion there is way too much "what is my government going to do for me" these days. It is not in gun owners best interest to pit themselves against such a successful system because they want more shooting ranges. I think that will be a bad move for the shooting community/firearms industry and is destined to backfire.

Still, I don't disagree with your basic premise, that shooters are contributing to the fund and deserve to be recognized as an important partner in this awesome program. Shooters deserve a larger place at the table. I also think wildlife agencies need to do a better job at getting the word out about the funds that are spent on behalf of the hunting and non-hunting shooting community. I think whipping shooters into a frenzy and pitting them against hunters and state wildlife agencies is counterproductive. We have to remember that the moat needs to surround us all.

Keep up the good work on behalf of our gun rights, but please do not work to tear down the most successful system of wildlife conservation in the history of mankind.


DamDoc said...

There a few "out of business" ranges around... I drove by a beautiful one with several brand new skeet shooting stations a couple weeks ago near Eatonton, GA (southeast of atlanta and north of Milledgeville.. It was a tragic site, and the place was brand new... I was told the guy who started it went belly up (probably due to too much up front capital expense since it was pretty fancy)... that might be a great use for some of this grant money to resusitate defunct ranges that could be picked up for dimes on the dollar...

ExurbanKevin said...

It's not just Ben Avery: As Jim points out, Arizona is chock-full of great outdoor ranges, all funded in part by Arizona Fish and Game matching grants, so it seems to me that if we are to mimic the success of the ranges in Arizona we need to incorporate some of the strategies this state has used to secure funding for first-class shooting facilities.

For example, my home range, Rio Salado Sportsman's, is used several times each week by many different law enforcement agencies for practice and training. Local college cops, the tribal policemen, even some of the smaller police forces all come out to shoot on our pistol bays and hi-power range.

They usually shoot during business hours, which puts otherwise-empty ranges to work during the time when the rest of us should be working, and the same pistol bay that can train two dozen cops on a Tuesday morning can be used for IPSC on a Saturday afternoon. Most smaller police forces can't afford a dedicated range of their own, so creating a range that has dual-use areas and public-only areas could ease the budget pain for many states, I would think.

John Richardson said...

I love the idea that Ulmus put out there about converting empty "big box" stores into indoor ranges. There are so many of them around that they have spawned their own name - Grey fields.

My own county is trying to buy an old WalMart building to use for their Dept of Social Services and Health Dept.

With proper baffling, bullet stops, and air filters, you don't have problems with noise, safety or pollution. I'm sure the NIMBY's will still find a reason to oppose it but this is a great out-of-the-box solution IMHO.

Bitter said...

First of Michael, I really appreciate the attempt at stroking the ego by calling me an insider. But we both know that to compare my piddly former access to a couple of better connected colleagues with the fact that you have multiple television shows where you can take your beef with the industries to a wide public don't even begin to compare. So I don't quite agree that you and I have had the same path which merely diverged.

And I wasn't trying to tell you it couldn't be done. I don't appreciate the implication that I was doing so or speaking to you in simple terms that you can't do something. I was raising a point that, if you want to really sell this plan, you need to address. It is not an easy one, that's for sure. But it's the biggest hurdle you face - far larger than any bias toward hunting.

Under § 669g, P-R says the states must pay for at least 25% of any range project. The money can come from hunting license sales or other state sources. With licenses on the decline - with the rare exception of a slightly better year every once in a while - that doesn't seem like a viable source for funding. And with more than 40 states running mid-year budget deficits (just as of February, the first data I could find), it will be a hard sell to convince lawmakers to give up the funds out of any other state source.

I also used my limited platform to make the case for more range funding out of P-R. The first argument I faced was that it was primarily a state issue, and that's true. They decide at the state level which projects get funded. Of course, that seemed like a much less daunting task since I was raising these points when states still had money to spend, and were spending it like it was burning a hole in their pockets.

I'm not trying to rain on your parade, it's just addressing the first big question that stands in the way of any action on your plan. You need to find a way to fund that first 25%. Because it means likely cuts to other programs, it's going to be a damn hard fight in these times.

A good plan will at least have potential solutions for problems that stand in the way. If you want your idea to succeed, you have to be ready with at least a few serious possible solutions to the budget problem. In my opinion, the bias is the easy part to overcome. Money is the real issue these days. To take Frank W. James's saying, if you can figure out how to get blood out of a turnip, then your letter may have much more of an impact that could lead to tangible results.

Boyd K said...

"To be funded a range must also make provisions for outside training to be available."

Err, uh, no. As someone who's spent quite a bit of enjoyable time and money on training and on training to be a trainer and on NRA certification. And as a volunteer who's spent a LOT of time teaching here here and here I like the idea of a range -owning- their own "inside" training program and I have some ideas ( ) on how they can set a high quality program up. Maybe I'm misunderstanding "outside" here? Boyd Kneeland

be603 said...

Need to allow for local control and tailoring of ranges to local conditions. In some urban settings a great many small ranges with limited capability (e.g. .22's and handguns) might be preferred.

Maybe they could be clustered geographically around larger facilities where space can be found.

Robert said...

The Arizona Game & Fish Dept. model is an excellent example for others to follow in building ranges, such as Ben Avery and Rio Salado Sportmen's Club.

Bitter is correct that hunting licensing is in decline, certainly a concern for NSSF, but Arizona faces the same decline. AZ Game & Fish has some innovative approaches to merchandising licenses to generate additional licensing revenue.

Perhaps, Mr. Heffelfinger can direct you to specific information about how AZ Game & Fish, the supervising commission, and the proper allocation of user fees get things done in AZ. I've lost the info somewhere on the hard drive, but it is innovative for a State agency.

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