I think it must be all that rain. People in the Pacific Northwest march to the beat of a different Doumbek. Up there, they take all this environmental stuff more like a religion, than a philosophy or a political statement. Me? I’m a believer in moderation in all things. Saving the planet is a great idea, just as long as the planet actually needs saving. For instance, if you’ve been doing something for, say, 40 years or so with no adverse effects, I find it a little hard to believe that, just because somebody’s consciousness is raised, you’ve got to change everything you’ve been doing Right Now! or risk Destroying Mother Earth! The conflict between Mother Nature, Father Time, tree-huggers and shooters is coming to a head in Oregon. And I’m afraid the results aren’t gonna be pretty.
Here’s the 411 in a nutshell: The Ashland Gun Club has been around since the height of the hippie movement in 1968. They have a popular outdoor range, where enthusiasts can practice everything from skeet to cowboy action shooting. Sounds like a nice place. Cheap, too – anual membership is just $50. Unfortunately, they don’t own their property, and their lease is up for renewal. (Some) neighbors in the area have complained about the lead shot, clay target debris and shells they claim are fouling the water and accumulating in the ground. And they want the club off the land, and demand that the club clean up all the “environmental toxins.”
Let’s take a step back. According to what I’ve read, it’s not ALL the neighbors. It’s three of them. The three, oddly enough, that moved to the area recently. Apparently, the long-time neighbors have no problem with the place. The dispute comes at a dicey time for the range, as the city council is considering if they should renew the lease on the city-owned land.
Forty years of use would result in what must be a whole lotta lead on the land. Given the current tactics of those of an ecological bent, a lot of ranges have chosen to pro-actively clean up their land (a not inexpensive proposition, I might add), rather than run afoul of activist judges, environmentalist lawyers, and aggressive politicians. Of course, given the current economic picture, clubs can actually recoup some of their costs of cleanup by selling the lead and brass to scrap metal companies that melt down the metals for reuse. Nothing wrong with that. But the Ashland Gun Club is not willing to spend the bucks to clean up the place until they know they’re getting their lease renewed. And there we come to the crux of the problem.
According to the fine folks at the EPA, lead is classified as a “toxic substance.” But hold the phone, Lucile. Under federal environmental regs, if you use a toxic substance for it’s “intended purpose,” it’s not toxic. Since a gun range offers an “intended purpose” under the law, the lead on the gun range property is not a toxic substance, and is therefore not a hazard. However, should the gun club lose their lease, somebody’s gonna be on the hook for cleaning up all that land, for without the gun club in operation, what was once covered by “intended purpose” is no longer, and the lead instantly and magically transmogrified from “non-toxic” to “toxic” with the stroke of a pen.
So how do you settle something like this? Testing, of course. And the tests have been…inconclusive. The plaintiffs attorney (of course) claims that the range has violated the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This is not surprising, as it’s the way the law works. The problem is, all it takes is one wacky judge or an activist city council, and all of a sudden not only do you lose your lease, but you’re on the hook for expensive, environmental cleanup.
So what’s the moral? I can think of a couple. First, to quote the words of Joe Bob Briggs (Drive-In Movie Theatre Critic of Grapevine, Texas) Without eternal vigilance, it can happen here. If you want to keep your favorite range intact, be pro-active sooner, rather than later. Second, if you think that the only way the anti-gun forces will come after you is via the Second Amendment, then you’re not paying attention. And third, a little advocacy, good-neighbor groundwork and PR sure can’t hurt. Start a free, underprivileged youth shooting program (think of it this way – you’ll either keep the yoots outta trouble, or teach the gang-bangers of tomorrow how to shoot straight). Start an “Invite a non-shooter friend to the range” program. Have a member who’s telegenic and articulate contact the local media outlets and offer their services as a “local expert” so when a gun-related issue comes up, you get (at worst) equal time. Do this, and you’ll beat the gun grabbers at their own game. get complacent, and you may be looking for a new home for your gun range before you know it.