After shooting at literally dozens of shooting quarries, designated shooting areas, public ranges and the occasional snooty private range, I thought I’d seen every stupid rule and regulation out there. Bans on ‘rapid fire’ (‘rapid fire’ meaning firing faster than a speeding Brown Bess musket)? Check. Bans on prone/kneeling/offhand firing? Take your pick, I’ve been there. Bans on loading more than three rounds in your magazine? More common than I once believed. One unnamed private shooting range (just south of Portland, Oregon, cough cough) even prohibits you from setting down your closed and locked gun case in the wrong direction.
But threatening felony prosecution for scrounging brass? I guess I hadn‘t seen it all.
The English Pit is a small shooting range at the northeast fringe of the greater Portland, Oregon suburbopolis. I’ve done most of my TTAG accuracy testing there, but my patronage ended when I read the fine print of their ‘No Brass Picking’ policy.
I understand that most ranges sort and sell the brass that shooters leave there, and I get as annoyed as anyone by the brass scroungers that hold up the firing line every time the range goes cold. But brass-picking is a part of the hobby and the sport of shooting, and most shooters have at least a small collection of rare or unusual brass like .41 AE, .460 Weatherby, 9mm Nambu or .455 Webley somewhere near their gun safe. I even found a Martini-Henry case at a shooting range once, although I’ve since lost it.
Most of these souvenirs were scrounged from shooting ranges, and none of us would have them if every range were as obnoxious as The English Pit has become.
Here’s an excerpt from their brass collection policy:
Removing cartridge case from the range that was not shot by yourself amounts to shoplifting and will be treated as such. Since someone ‘stealing’ empty cases will likely have firearms in their possession, what is generally treated as a misdemeanor becomes a more serious offense. Those caught doing so could face far more aggressive apprehension techniques by the Vancouver Police Department and if convicted, the resulting charges could be severe to the point of seeing someone’s right to ever legally own, shoot or even hold a firearm forever denied.
This policy is deeply offensive, and it also suffers from poor grammar and invalid legal reasoning. I don’t recommend that anyone test this theory themselves, but under Washington law the mere presence of a firearm does not automatically turn every nonviolent misdemeanor into a felony robbery or burglary.
It is the use of force (or threat of force) that turns a shoplifting into a robbery, and not the presence of an unloaded pistol on a gun rug at the firing line. By the same logic, it’s not a felony to have a gun under your jacket (with a CCW permit) and an iPod with a few ‘borrowed’ songs on it in your pocket. It’s also not a felony to legally CCW while driving a car when your drivers license happens to be suspended because of a parking ticket that your brother got and forgot to tell you about.
Many ranges sort and sell their used brass, and I understand they’ve got a valid economic reason for shutting down the most voracious brass hounds because they cost them a lot of money. Ranges can prevent this by posting their policies, warning egregious offenders, and then throwing them off the range.
But brass-picking is still part of the sport, and threatening shooters with highly questionable felony prosecution for a violation of range etiquette is like putting armed guards at either side of a self-serve soda fountain to enforce a ‘No Refills’ policy.
I’ve been visiting the English Pit for almost twenty years, but I’ll take my money and my guns elsewhere as long as this policy is in place.