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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Massachusetts Gun Ranges Targeted

Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) Executive Director Jim Wallace refers to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as the "Second Amendment Battle Ground State." Every time I hear Jim on Cam Edwards' program (or anyone else from the northeast for that matter) I give special thanks that I live in Virginia.

The Boston Globe reports that if Governor Deval Patrick’s administration has it's way, things like turkey shoots will be a thing of the past at Massachusetts gun ranges. The Globe says this is a reaction to a terrible and tragic accident last fall, when an 8-year-old boy died after shooting himself with a machine gun during a “pumpkin shoot’’ at a Westfield Gun Club.

Patrick's new regulations would prohibit machine guns at all public sporting club events. In addition they would require clubs to obtain special licenses, hire a police detail, and have one certified firearms safety instructor for every 20 people in attendance (or one for every five attendees if children are present) at all public events. The regulations would also require clubs to submit a safety plan to their local police department 30 days before each event.

One gun club representative said of the proposed regulations:

"That tradition is going to go away because the public is invited to this event,’’ said Jim Finnerty, the Shirley Rod and Gun Club’s only certified firearms safety instructor. Based on the number of people (including children) who turn out for the Turkey Shoot, the club would need to have as many as 60 safety instructors, plus a police detail costing more than $40 per hour, to meet the regulations, he said.

But its not just things like traditional turkey shoots that will be put out of business. The Globe reports that the Ayer Gun and Sportsmen’s Club hosts an annual Military Demonstration Day featuring World War II machine guns. It may cease to exist, according to the club’s assistant range officer, Dan Damato. This event is held to honor veterans. Only one person is allowed to shoot the machine gun, while everyone else stands behind, Damato told the Globe. If Patrick's machine gun ban takes effect the tradition will end.

Damato said the regulations are aimed at shutting down small gun clubs. I can't disagree. The anti-rights crowd takes every opportunity to not only restrict access to firearms, but also restrict our ability to exercise our right. What good is a firearm is you have no place to practice to become proficient with it? They claim they want only trained individuals to have firearms but if there are no ranges, it is kind of hard to have "trained" gun owners. And that is their goal.

So you might ask what does this have to do with Virginia? Virginia's ranges have come under attack of a different sort over the last five to six years. Noise complaints caused by development encroachment around ranges have led to attempts to close down or restrict shooting ranges. Gun owners who own land ranging from several acres to several hundred acres have come under attack from new neighbors who have moved in from surburban areas to escape ubanization, only to find out that people own guns in rural areas. These new neighbors complain about noise from people target practicing on their private property.

VSSA is in the forefront of fighting these restrictions. We introduced and helped pass legislation in 2004 to protect ranges from localities that attempted to change noise regulations after a range applied for or was approved for a permit to operate. We continue to fight regulations that infringe on shooting on private property. We need you to join our fight. Go to our web page and join VSSA or renew your membership. Together, we can keep Virginia from following in the footsteps of our neighbors to the north.

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