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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.

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  1. Sorry, I agree with not putting thousands of pounds of lead into the environment, and the cleanup that should happen if it is done.

    I think it is high time we get the lead out of ammunition anyway. Even at indoor ranges lead becomes a health concern to shooters. It would be in everyone’s best interest to get rid of the stuff for health and environmental reasons. And no, I am not a “tree hugger”.

    • Yeah and the government is right with you. Just imagine how hard and expensive it will be to roll your own, without lead! Did you ever stop to think about why, they desire to do this so very much? And don’t start spouting contamination crap because there is NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE to support any of that crap.

  2. Lead and other metals don’t belong in the ground or groundwater. The gun club put it there and it is the gun club’s moral responsibility to remove it. Just because we are sympathetic to guns and gun clubs doesn’t mean we give gun clubs a free pass.

    “We might be moving” is not an excuse. Actually, it’s a remarkably skanky way to evade responsibility. The gun club leased the land from the city. The gun club should return the land to the city in like condition, not abandon the property and stick the city with an environmental mess.

    As outdoor sportsmen we should be the last people to roll for this. We wouldn’t let a battery plant pull a stunt like this. Why should we allow a gun range to do it? Seriously, WTF?

    • Lead and other metals don’t belong in the ground…

      Uh, Magoo? Where do you think they come from in the first place?

      And so far the tests have been inconclusive. In other words, there’s no solid evidence that says any lead from the place is in the groundwater.

      Sure, let the club clean up the site. Good idea, and they can recycle the lead and brass. But seriously, concern trolling isn’t helping.

  3. Lead bullets? Really? I haven’t eaten any recently, and I doubt anyone else has. Chunks of lead have zero negative effects on health unless they’re eaten. Lead in solution is a killer. There are plenty of such chemicals around, and they need to be cleaned up. But bullets don’t dissolve. Bullets do not leach into groundwater or pollute an aquifer. Bullets only affect health when they strike a body at speed. Jeez, people, wise up and stop being played.

    • From the EPA’s publication “BMP for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges”, available at

      “Lead can be introduced into the environment at
      shooting ranges in one or more of the following
      ways. Each of these pathways is site-specific
      and may or may not occur at each individual
      • Lead oxidizes when exposed to air and
      dissolves when exposed to acidic water or
      • Lead bullets, bullet particles, or dissolved
      lead can be moved by storm water runoff.
      • Dissolved lead can migrate through soils to

      • This, from the same bunch of geniuses that foisted the “low-flow toilets” upon the public, by executive fiat, only to discover that in order to get the crap to move down the pipe, you have to flush three or four times (using more water than the classic toilets). FAIL. I don’t trust the EPA, because too many of the higher-ups are driven, not by science, but by special-interest groups and environmentalists with their own, scorched-Earth agendas. Any agency that would put thousands of farmers out of work under the pretense of saving some “snail darter” from “extinction” does not deserve my trust or faith.

        • I have a Kohler Class V toilet that flushes just fine, thanks.

          That’s a pretty narrow view, isn’t it Brad? Virtually EVERTHING they say must be false because it fits your opinion of them?

          It is interesting to note that in the acknowledgements of the publication I posted the link to they list the support of The National Rifle Association of America
          and The National Shooting Sports Foundation in creating the document.

          Specifics of this particular gun club aside, is it possible to even admit there might be a kernel of truth that lead in the environment might be a bad thing?

        • There could be. And I have no objection to cleaning up the environment – or cleaning up after oneself, as long as the opportunity costs don’t exceed the value of the work, and the results are verifiably beneficial. And therein lies the problem. So much of what we hear about science from the EPA, the administration, and the media is junk science. Remember a few years ago when the big worry was global cooling? I do. And it seems every Summer, there’s a doomsday disease – swine flu, avian flu, West Nile virus…the list goes on and on. So how do you separate the truth from the lies and the exaggerations? My own sniff test is to try and apply some common sense to the situation. If lead exists in nature, and this range has been out there for 40 years, I have a hard time believing (especially after the inconclusive tests) that this is a showstopper of a problem. Should they clean up the range? Sure. All that lead and brass is worth money. Should they have to do it because three Johnny-come-lately neighbors don’t want a gun range in their neighborhood? Nope.

          I’m not saying everything the EPA claims is a lie. But because they’ve been caught telling whoppers before, I take what they say with a rather large grain of NaCl.

        • I agree Brad. The EPA is politically motivated with a touch of psuedo science added. Things they’ve said in the past and will continbue to spout are political machinations, the most current being with their ruling that dairy products are toxic and can’t be put into the ground.

      • Can dissolve? Can migrate? Can’t you recognize weasel-words when you read them? Lead will not dissolve unless it is in the presence of a strong acid or strong caustic agent. Acid rain and acid soil is too weak to dissolve lead. Use your head, man. You’re being conned, and it’s an obvious con. If the acid in soil or water was strong enough to dissolve lead, wouldn’t it dissolve you first?

      • Absolute crap, designed to effectuate a purpose. It’s a lie or rather a series of lies, that intelligent people have learned to ignore. They have an agenda and this is part of it, if you can’t see that you’re hopeless. You might as well swallow some lead shot and be done with it.

        These people will say and do anything to get your guns and your freedoms. How many proven lies, how many attempts does it take before people see the correlation and confluence of activities in these respects? A blind man wouldn’t have as much trouble seeing the truth.

        OH! OH! OH! ” We gotta do this !!! ” WHY? Because some lying Marxist traitor says so? Because he’s so cute and has such an endearing smile or because she has a nice rack and looks like she puts out?

        Open your eyes.

    • Yep. The claim that ancient Romans suffered lead poisoning from their plumbing is wrong — the plumbing coated with scale long before any appreciable amounts of lead got into their water.

      Sure would be interesting to check the effluent from some of the local “organic” farms, too…

      • Indeed, it has now been demonstrated that Lead Poisoning occurred in the Roman upper class (little sign of it in the poorer classes) was due to repeated ingestion of …
        Sugar Of Lead used to sweeten their foods and fruits
        aka White Lead, aka Lead Oxide.
        Direct ingestion, just like the “poor kids” who chewed on “lead based paint” – ie cheap paint.
        I had often asked myself “why did kids chew on paint?” – because the lead oxide used at the time in white paint base was SWEET.

        Another instance of “a little knowledge” when misused wreaking havoc.

  4. You can only get “played” if you’re being lied to.

    If, on the other hand, you are an anti-gunner pretending to be a second amendment supporter, the ignorance is an act.

  5. It is so sad to see the ignorance here about lead and how it exists in the geography of the land. This is high school level chemistry folks. Lead sitting on a hillside does not ooze like poison.

    Hell I can dig up galena about a mile from where I live. I suppose that is a risk that should be removed also. Come to think of it there is asbestos in the dirt too. Maybe I can sue the people who put it there…..oh wait.

    • Shhh. It’s only a matter of time before the Atheists sue all the churches for something like that, on the basis of being Earthly representatives of God.

  6. Just out of curiosity, how many cases have been found in which lead poisoning or lead contamination has been directly linked to an existing shooting range? Through a little research I found cases of individuals who didn’t properly wash up after going shooting, who shot in an indoor range that lacked adequate ventilation, or cases of retained bullets (guy gets shot, bullet(s) left in, dies ten years later). But I couldn’t find anything substantial that concretely backs up the stance of these Oregonians who would like to see the place shut down

    As a side note, I also agree it is completely reasonable that the club would want to hear back about the lease before they clean up. In the sad case that they don’t get their lease renewed I think they should shoulder some of the clean up costs, along with the city, especially since it is possible to make some or all of the money back in scrap sales.

    • I’ve been told by more than one range officer that the big problem with indoor ranges is not the lead in the bullets, but the lead in the primer. That’s why there’s a need for decent air circulation – lead poisoning from the gasses are a much more serious problem than anything caused by a lead bullet. Outdoors, I get where some animal eating the lead might be a problem. But you’d have to show me it’s enough of an epidemic that we should ban lead.

        • They haven’t used mercury primers in a long time. The current chemical is lead styphnate (sp?). Mercury primers were damaging to the brass, preventing reloading, but had no adverse effects on the firearms.

  7. I dealt with the EPA for half of my career as a lawyer. I was involved with six Federal superfund sites. Reading an EPA ROD (Record Of Decision) is like reading something out of Lewis Carroll. And the remedy is typically to cap the site with an impermiable cover — in other words, to leave the stuff alone. The fact is, the EPA practices voodoo science, and for most of the same reasons that the ATF made up its “Iron River” nonsense. It’s called empire building and holding on to their crappy government jobs.

    Lead can be dissolved by alkalis and acids. A weak alkali will not dissolve lead. Neither will a weak acid, like acid rain. If anything corrosive enough to dissolve lead ever fell from the sky, we’d all be dead because our skin would dissolve first. Leachate from paint? That’s a horse of a diferent color. Leachate from lead acid batteries? Major problem, because the lead is already dissolved by battery acid. Leachate from bullets? Preposterous.

    If the NRA supports the EPAs pseudo-science, it’s for political reasons. I’m fine with that if we get something in return, and we usually do when the NRA cuts the deal. It’s a cynical as hell, but that’s politics. And the EPA.

    • Amen….the problem isn’t with science, but people’s misunderstanding of it. The EPA isn’t immune to using scare tactics unleashed on the general public to further their cause.

      Mind you there are some legit concerns, but lead from bullets is way, way down on the list of real threats to anyone’s health.

  8. The irony is that if the watermelons (you know: green on the outside, red on the inside) get their way and force the closure of the range, it won’t protect the environment from lead. Rather, it will just mean that more shooters will go out on public land and shoot at trees and rock quarries.

    • “more shooters will go out on public land and shoot at trees and rock quarries.”

      I’m rather fond of rocks and quarries. I’m not so fond of the EPA, though.

    • You are right, Joe. In fact a friend told me he and another had done just that when the local range was solid for the day. I have recently moved to the area and the way to describe it is as a shooters paradise.

  9. After reading this all I could think of was an article in a gun magazine stating that game shot with lead bullets was found to contain more lead than game shot with brass bullets.

    • I wish they would tell me when the bandwagon was coming by, I never get a chance to jump on it. The EPA is specifically prohibited from regulating lead in ammunition, to me that means from manufacture to end use. The lead was taken out of the ground and is being put back into the ground, net result, zero. Or actually an improvement, where it was taken out there were serious concentrations or it wasn’t worth mining, where it is being put back is more diffuse, lower concentration means less that can be dissolved.

      Lead acid batteries contain some metallic lead, the bad part is the active material, lead oxide and lead sulphate. Both are easily absorbed by the body while a chunk of metallic lead will pass thru with minimum absorption.

      and VAN, your Kohler Class V toilet that flushes just fine is helping stop the city sewer lines even if it doesn’t back up and overflow in the floor. But that’s somebody else’s problem isn’t it?

  10. “Since a gun range offer an ‘intended purpose’ under the law”

    Should that be offers and intended purpose?

  11. I don’t know what volume of shot this range gets but I can’t imagine that after 40 years of operation they don’t have enough lead and copper buried to make it a cash positive clean up operation. (We get around ~10k/year net)

  12. Reminds me of a local dirtbike track that was threatened with shutdown because of people who moved in nearby YEARS after the track was established and didn’t like the noise. So obviously they called in the lawyers…

    Of course they knew the track was there before they bought their homes, just like these people knew the gun club was there. But why worry about that? When you can just sue people out of your new neighborhood and possibly out of their livelihood?

    • +1.

      Anyone who reads this “story” and believes that it has anything to do with pollution, please remove your cranium from your rectum.

      • I’m not smart enough to know whether or not lead from bullets in the ground is a problem. I am smart enough to figure out that these people are simply using this as an excuse to get rid of the range.

      • You would be right, 2Wheels. Ashland is known for it’s hippy thoughts that don’t really jive with the rest of the state. It is a sue job for sure.

  13. What worry about global cooling, Brad? If you’re talking about dumping enough melt water into the Atlantic to screw up the thermohaline circulation, well, that’s still a concern. But the error bar is still pretty wide on that one.

    The error bar on dumping enough CO2 and CH4 into the atmosphere to melt the ice cap in the first place is a lot, lot smaller. It’s for practical purposes zero. A shooting range getting lead into the water supply is obviously bad, but worrying incessantly about that is focusing on one little tree in one giant forest. Regulating the release of carbon dioxide and methane are far more important. Most envirotards loose sight of the big picture.

  14. Having grown up in Oregon I can totally see this! Grumpy hippies who want everyone to see things the way they do and grumpy rednecks that ain’t gonna clean up the lawn if they don’t get to keep it because damn them hippies and damn the government because they want to take our guns and taxes!

    If anyone’s not going to think that gun advocates are dicks the way to do it is to clean up the land regardless of the lease. If they’re actually going to do it anyway then what’s the issue? Just clean your damn yard so the neighbors shut up.

    Also you’re more likely to find genuine meth heads in Ashland than gang bangers. Oregon’s not much for diversity!


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