Movement to open up Federal Parks for public access to federal shooting ranges

Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
July 11, 2005

Activists around the country are beginning to probe federal shooting ranges, seeking public access, if my inbound emails are any measure. This follows release of news from Bloomfield Press that federal law specifically allows such use (linked at end). So far, authorities have reportedly been resisting the public's interest in following the law, and that's putting it nicely.

No one appears to be surprised by the stonewalling. Some of these target shooters have actually been motivated by the resistance they have encountered, saying it is a good arena for "shoe-leather activism." The reward of having a lot of cool new places to go shooting has also encouraged people to act.

One leverage point was brought up by an attorney. The law specifically says that range fees, which may be charged in some cases, "shall be credited to the appropriation available for the operation and maintenance of that rifle range and shall be available for the operation and maintenance of that rifle range." In plain English, that means the range keeps the money.

Normally, fees are taken away from the unit that collects them, and put in a general fund for all government offices to spend. Money staying at the range is a strong incentive to range operators who might otherwise be reluctant to comply with the federal law.

Wiggle room has been found by some ranges claiming they are pistol ranges, and not rifle ranges. The law is limited to rifle ranges, an undefined term. If rifles are or have ever been used on the range, the authorities would be hard pressed to claim it is not a rifle range. Carbines are rifles. The Uzi carbine popular with some federal officials is technically a rifle, since it is designed to be fired from the shoulder, even though it shoots a 9mm cartridge. The official definition of a rifle is in 18 USC 921:

"(7) The term 'rifle' means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger." . . .

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