Over very recent years firearm sales have hit record numbers and background checks are on point to come close. With so many first-time gun owners, expanding the number of gun ranges is important so they can practice their skills. For this reason, Congressman Blake Moore (UT-01) is introducing the Range Access Act. If passed, the bill promises to provide a free public shooting range in every National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) district.
Free Public Shooting Range in Every National Forest Thanks to the Range Access Act
The bill, cited as the “Range Access Act” intends “To facilitate the creation of designated shooting ranges on National Forest System land and public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management for the public to use for recreational target shooting, and for other purposes.”
According to Congressman Moore’s office, the hope is that by improving access more people can enjoy the outdoors. Additionally, it will generate more Pittman-Robertson funding, create safe places to shoot, reduce trash on public lands, and enhance ethical hunting.
The bill defines a designated shooting range as a “developed and managed area on Federal land that is designed and operated specifically for the purposeful discharge of legal firearms, firearms training, archery, or other associated activities.”
Likewise, the bill goes on to state that the shooting ranges must be able to accommodate rifles, pistols, and shotguns. However, archery accommodations will be up to each district. Each range must also include significantly modified landscapes including berms, buffer distances, or other public safety designs or features.
The public safety designs or features are listed as a designated firing line and benches. However, each district can decide to include shade structures, trash containers, and restrooms. An included line item also allows for any other features the Secretary concerned determines to be necessary.
The decision to build structures for affixing targets will involve community engagement and happen at the local level. However, if the range near you requires you to provide your own stand, you can construct them easily and inexpensively.
If enacted, Secretaries will have to cooperate with organizations that may be affected the legislation. The bill lists such entities as:
- Local and Tribal governments
- Nonprofit organizations
- State fish and wildlife agencies
- Shooting clubs
- Federal advisory councils relating to hunting and shooting sports
- Nongovernmental organizations that, as of the date of enactment of this Act, are signatories to the memorandum of understanding entitled ‘‘Federal Lands Hunting, Fishing, and Shooting Sports Roundtable Memorandum of Understanding’’ and signed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management on August 17, 2006
- Individuals or entities with authorized leases or permits in an area under consideration for a designated shooting range
- The public.
Similarly, the management of each shooting range is subject to conditions put forth by the Secretary concerned. Such conditions include the safe and responsible use of the designated shooting range and adjacent resources. Presumably, this includes the creation of specific range rules and other range information.
“The National Shooting Sports Foundation commends Congressman Blake Moore for introducing this vitally important legislation to increase access for the public to practice marksmanship at safe recreational shooting ranges,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel.
“This legislation, that would require the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to have at least one qualifying recreational shooting range in each National Forest and BLM district, is crucial to ensuring safe public recreational shooting. Congressman Moore’s bill would also benefit conservation by reducing pollution at non-dedicated ranges on federal public lands while also generating additional Pittman-Robertson revenue,” he concluded.
The Range Access Act and What It Means to You
I reached out to Congressman Moore’s office and inquired about the funding for this act. Since USFS and BLM already have a mission to enhance recreation, there is no new funding necessary. This new act would fall under their existing responsibilities.
Likewise, the recent press release clarifies, “By making it easier to recreate, this bill will enhance Pittman-Robertson funding that flows toward state wildlife and fish management agencies. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act, an excise tax is levied on the purchase of ammunition, firearms, and archery equipment that funds critically important conservation programs. Since being enacted in 1937, more than $15 billion has been transferred to states.”
For commercial range owners, Congressman Moore’s office assured me this is only to provide access where there currently is none. This is about complementing range access, not competing.
“This legislation is an important step in expanding access to recreational shooting practice. Americans from coast to coast love spending time in the outdoors, and expanding our ability to recreate on and enjoy our public lands is one of my core focuses in Congress,” said Congressman Blake Moore. “The Range Access Act would establish free shooting ranges for sportsmen to safely participate in target practice while supporting our wildlife conservation and local economies.”
If you would like to help this legislation succeed, contact your state representative and express your interest in the bill. Likewise, spread the word and have friends and family do the same. Places to safely practice are essential with the addition of so many new shooters in the shooting sports and concealed carry.
Additionally, it is important that you leave ranges cleaner than you found them. The better we look, the better our reputation as responsible, and environmentally friendly recreational shooters.
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