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President Joe Biden is determined to decimate the notion that responsible gun owners should be able to responsibly teach the next generation of outdoorsmen and women recreational target shooting. His latest scheme is to shutter 98.9 percent of the Sonoran Desert National Monument to recreational target shooting.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized a resource management plan revision that closes off all but 1.1 percent of the nearly half-a-million-acre national monument. BLM announced earlier this year that it planned to close all but 5,295 acres to recreational target shooters.

The move is the latest snub to outdoorsmen and women, as much as it is a rejection and reversal of gains made by the outdoor recreation community during the Trump administration. In 2018, the Trump administration published a plan to open 90 percent – or 435,700 acres – of the Sonoran Desert National Monument to recreational target shooting.

Government Taketh Away

In other words, the Biden administration not only reversed the gains made for recreational target shooters and outdoorsmen and women, they took away even more opportunities that existed before President Donald Trump ended the previous restrictions to target shooting on those public lands.

That’s not the first time President Biden has taken a swipe at outdoorsmen and women who want to pass along their hunting heritage and safe firearm handling skills to the next generation. In July 2023, the Biden administration’s Department of Education shared guidance to schools to strip funding for hunter education and scholastic archery programs in public schools. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona claimed it was necessary because of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a wildly off-base claim that earned the rebuke of NSSF, conservation groups and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

The reaction was swift. Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of U.S. Rep. Mark Green’s (R-Tenn.) Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act to amend the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to clarify school programs “training students in archery, hunting, or other shooting sports” are eligible for funding. The lopsided vote of 424-1 in the House of Representatives and a unanimous agreement in the U.S. Senate sent the message. President Biden was off target in attacking youth hunter education. He was forced to sign the veto-proof legislation in October 2023.

Now, the Biden administration is claiming the decision to shutter even more land to recreational target shooting is needed because of a court settlement the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to in April 2022, stemming from a 2019 lawsuit by a coalition of special-interest environmental groups that challenged the Trump administration’s opening of the Sonoran Desert National Monument to allow more access to public lands recreational shooting.

“The BLM worked to find a safe balance between various recreational uses of public lands while protecting objects of historic or scientific interest in the national monument,” said Phoenix District Manager Leon Thomas in a press release statement. “We continue to explore ways to enhance opportunities for recreational shooting on other public lands in Arizona, such as our new shooting sports sites in the metro Phoenix area.”

That’s at least a 60-mile drive. NSSF reports show that 21 percent of recreational target shooters almost exclusively use public land to practice and 43 percent noted that access constraints are their topmost concern.

Court Made Me Do It

There’s little evidence that the Biden administration’s DOJ and BLM fought hard to protect the ability of outdoorsmen and women to access the full spectrum of public lands in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The inverse is true. Federal agencies, including the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), have engaged in “sue-and-settle” schemes with special-interest antigun and anti-hunting groups to advance an extremist agenda. It’s a way for bureaucrats to throw their hands in the air and claim they were forced into these tilted decisions by the courts and had no other recourse.

Except that’s not true. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted “sue-and-settle” schemes as a means of regulating behind closed doors.

“‘Sue and Settle’ refers to when a federal agency agrees to a settlement agreement, in a lawsuit from special interest groups, to create priorities and rules outside of the normal rulemaking process,” the U.S. Chamber wrote in 2018. “The agency intentionally relinquishes statutory discretion by committing to timelines and priorities that often realign agency duties. These settlement agreements are negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the public or affected parties.”

The practice is a way for government bureaucrats to work hand-in-glove with special-interests to not only skirt the regular process but to force policies that disenfranchise those who oppose them. In the case of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, that’s leaving recreational target shooters and outdoorsmen and women out in the cold while catering the environmental groups.

NSSF supports an answer to some of these problems that have already been introduced in Congress. Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) introduced the H.R. 1614, the Range Access Act, that would require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and BLM to have at least one qualifying recreational shooting range in each district. That doesn’t solve all the issues.

The Biden administration continues to use the “whole-of-government” to attack the firearm industry and those who value their Second Amendment rights. That includes the DOJ, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry Security (BIS) and the Interior Department’s USFWS and BLM.

For the Biden administration, the announcement to block off 98.9 percent of the Sonoran Desert National Monument has the added effect of robbing those who value their traditions of responsible gun ownership from being able to access public lands to teach and pass along that ethos to the next generation of gun owners.

It’s not just an attack on Trump administration policies. This is an attack on America’s heritage of responsible firearm ownership.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. We need to adopt a Swiss answer. Every organized community should have a range. In our system, it would be the county. If it is big enough to have a park, it should have a range. What that looks like should be up to the locals, but the minimum should be sight-in for service rifles and practice of defensive pistols. IE, the ability to train to defend the country and oneself, so there are no dumb rules about not drawing or firing controlled pairs. They should be big enough to support the population’s monthly use, which would be required under the 1792 Militia Act. I was just in AZ to train… 2-hour drive or pay to used ranges due to fire restrictions…every club had some hoops for outside instruction. All have to be ‘approved’…by their boards, not something one will get done in the morning. Not worth the effort for family on family training. Yes, the instructor has all the rockers…NRA, 4H, NROI, DOD, 30 years of experience…but to draw, one has to be ‘cleared’. I will take dessert over official ranges for one-on-one, any time.

  2. Democrats limiting firearms on public land who would have thought it……..guess they didn’t need a funding bill this time.

  3. Although I’m firmly in agreement that outdoorsman have an inherent right to public land access for hunting and target practice, I’m also often appalled by the “heritage” of shot up TV sets, refrigerators, and other debris that is often seen at informal shooting spots. I realize that it isn’t always the shooters themselves that haul this crap out to dump it in the woods or desert – the debris just becomes convenient targets. But once trach develops a few bullet holes, we know who gets the blame.

    Shooters also need to clean up their act in following the rules of gun safety. I’ve driven down roads in public lands and heard bullets whistling overhead, been hiking on established trails and found people shooting across the trail at targets, and have left many informal shooting areas (where I was planning to shoot) because a bunch of yahoos were acting like unsafe jerks.

    Seems to me like over 5000 acres of public land available to shooting is still a lot of land. Do I condone Biden’s administration reversing gains made in opening land to sportsmen? No I don’t – and in fact any regulation that Biden would endorse I’ll reject just as a matter of course. However, this is a two sided issue, unlike lead bullets and condors, shooters need to clean up their act, stop trashing public lands, show some common sense during periods of high fire danger, and treat fellow users with some respect.

    Okay Debbie, unleash fury.

    • I shoot in the sonoran desert .your correct in that assholes trash it. you left out. how myself and a whole lot of others bring boxes and contractors bags to clean up while we are out there. More government is never the answer.

  4. All my recreational shooting on public roads involves blowing holes in stop signs.
    I like to try and cut out the O in stop.

  5. The Federal Government should not be in the land management business. States should manage lands within their borders.

    “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings”

    There is nothing in the constitution permitting the federal government from reserving land for other purposes.

    Almost all the problems in this country could be solved by cutting the federal government to the footprint defined by the constitution.

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  7. The thing that is considered ‘public land’ is government land.

    Biden sees himself as king and as such, we are his subjects so ordered to obey his every word. No matter what it is and without regard to the US Constitution. He does not recognize states rights unless it’s a state run by Democrats. Therefore all public land is his.

    For the time being, I will stick with land open to the public and that which is private when possible.

    The answer to all this craziness is to remove these people from power. Not just the president but all three branches.

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