TTAG reader Ripcord sent us a link to the New York Times latest head-shaker about the scourge that is shooting on public lands. Ripcord does some head shaking himself, wondering, “First the open carriers, then the Oath Keepers during a riot, the ‘gun nuts’ and now recreational shooters. Is there any demographic they won’t vilify to get their propaganda out?” To which the answer is, of course, no . . .
In ‘In Quiet Woods, a Clamorous Gun Debate,’ Times scribe Jack Healy does his best to paint a vivid picture for Upper West Siders of the terror that results from allowing recreational shooting on public lands. An activity that tens of thousands of Americans engage in every year without incident. But predictably enough, Healy highlights this one:
Over the Fourth of July weekend in Pike National Forest in Colorado, a 60-year-old camper preparing to make s’mores with his grandchildren was killed when a stray bullet arced into his campsite. The camper, Glenn Martin, said “ow,” his daughter said, and when his family ran to help him, there was a hole in his shirt and blood pouring from his mouth.
“A war zone,” said Paul Magnuson, who owns a cycle shop in Woodland Park, Colo., and rides mountain bikes in the same forest where Mr. Martin died. His customers have complained about bullets whistling overhead, and Mr. Magnuson said he had gotten used to yelling out to alert target shooters that he was coming.
“Every time in the woods, you feared for your life,” he said. “It was absolutely, completely out of hand.”
The death of Mr. Martin is a tragedy to be sure. And no one would minimize the responsibility shooters have to observe basic gun safety (including Rule #4) wherever they may be shooting. But as Healy makes sure to point out, shooting isn’t just dangerous and icky, it’s also a threat to the land itself.
There have also been about 130 wildfires here over the past decade, some caused by bullet ricochets or exploding targets igniting dry cheatgrass. One bullet flew across the range and hit a bedpost in a nearby home, and land officials said high school students on a bus had to take cover to avoid careless gunfire. Cleanup crews have hauled away 20 tons of trash a year — refrigerators and car parts, clay pigeons and sofas, even bowling pins.
Just how prevalent are these “shooting violations?”
The federal agencies that manage national forests and open lands have tallied a growing number of shooting violations in the backcountry in recent years. The Forest Service recorded 1,712 shooting incidents across the country last year, up about 10 percent from a decade ago. More than a thousand of those reports ended with a warning or citation, but in some, Forest Service officers did not find who had fired or evidence of a violation after investigating a complaint.
So of the tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of shooters who responsibly use public lands to get in a little trigger time each year, the Forest Service has written a total of 1,712 citations. And given the huge expansion in popularity of the shooting sports, violations have only increased by 10%. That’s basically rounding error.
Again, none of that absolves shooters of the need to clean up after themselves – if only to deprive those who would limit or eliminate their shooting privileges of an excuse. If you’re going to go out and shoot on land that’s not yours be sure to clean up after yourself and, for God’s sake, do it safely. Because if you’re one of the tiny minority who don’t, you’re just giving ammunition (so to speak) to those who would limit your gun rights.