Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Thoughts on Organized Shooting Ranges and the RKBA

Over at the PA Gun Blog, Sebastian put up a thougthful post regarding the state of affairs at organized shooting ranges. If you're fortunate enough to have enough land of your own to shoot on, or live out West and can go shoot on public land, you may not be familiar with the restrictions us folks who have to shoot at a club must put up with.

In particular, many clubs have restrictions on how many rounds you may load in a gun, what types of targets you can shoot at, and how fast you can fire. Some clubs even restrict you to shooting rifles from a benchrest, with something overhead limiting how far you can elevate the barrel, in order to ensure no round passes over the berm. So much for offhand practice.

One of Sebastian's laments is that clubs with onerous rules and an aging membership will die out. This may be the case with some clubs, but of the two which I currently belong, to, their is a huge number of people clamoring to get in, many of whom are new shooters.

As Sebastian has pointed out in many of his other posts, we won the culture war, at least when it came to the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. I've been actively involved with the RKBA struggle for about 20 years, and cognizant of it for many years before that. I'm 44 years old, and for the first half of my life gun owners were made to feel like pariahs. Things started changing in the mid-90s. Several things contributed to this:

  1. The Clinton administration was very anti-gun and got a lot of people who otherwise may have sat on the sideline involved.
  2. The general realization that gun control laws are bullshit non-solutions to violent crime, and only result in unilateral victim disarmament.
  3. I can't point to any hard figures, but based on my personal observations, I believe the "Counterstrike Effect" is a contributing factor. Specifically, we've now had a generation of (mostly) guys who've been exposed to military guns and who developed a fascination with them via video gaming, and who as a result have gone out to buy AR-15s, AKs, and other military-style rifles.*

Nowadays you have shows like "Top Shot" and "Sons of Guns" on major cable networks. It's a refreshing change.

I posted a reply to Sebastian, which I'll copy here:

I belong to two clubs in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. I was on the board of directors for a year at Club #1. 
Club #1 went from about 800 memberships (a "membership" may be a family, so it may be more than 1 person) to about 1300 from 2008 to the present. At the same time, the types of rifle most predominantly seen on the ranges changed from traditional sporting rifles to military-style rifles, like AR-15s and AKs.** 
Additionally, we went from getting a handful of new members each month to getting 50 or 60, until we capped it at no more than 30 new members per month, and have since gone to requiring sponsorship. AIUI, we will not be accepting any new members after August until January at the earliest. 
Club #2 (which I recently joined) changed its membership rules in an effort to keep it from expanding beyond the range's capacity. They now require new members to be sponsored.
When both clubs were built they were in the country, but "progress" has resulted in homes being built nearby. In the case of Club #2 there are large developments of McMansions within a quarter mile. As a result, both clubs restrict rapid fire and strictly enforce shooting hours, due to noise concerns. Club #1 was actually shut down for a couple years by the township while the issue was litigated.
As I mentioned in my post, I was on the BOD at Club #1. Board membership is a pain in the neck and one of the most important duties you have as a director is handling stupid members who don't follow club rules. But if you belong to a club and are dissatisfied with some rules, don't just complain about it on the Internet. Get involved and bring about change from within.

* I hate the term "modern sporting rifle" that some shooters have bestowed upon AR-15s, et al., in seeking to come up with a politically correct euphemism. It kowtows to the belief that only sporting arms are protected by the Second Amendment, when in fact, it protects arms suitable for use by members of the militia. See United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), and see 10 U.S.C. Section 311 for the composition of the militia. Further, some state constitutions explicitly recognize that the people have the individual right to keep and bear arms. E.g., Article I, Section 21 of the PA constitution reads, "The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned."

**If you go into most gun shops, significant rack space will be devoted to semiauto, military-style rifles like AR-15s and Kalashnikovs. In handguns the M-1911 semiauto -- as made by many gun manufacturers and still going strong after 101 years -- and more modern designs like the various Glocks, S&W Military & Polices, and Springfield XDs dominate. Revolvers take up a much smaller amount of valuable shelf space.

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