Amid strong growth in the number of high school clay target shooters, and stable or increasing numbers of people seeking their firearms safety certification, legislation is expected this session that would provide more money to local shooting clubs.
Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, hasn’t settled yet on authors for a bill – or on the amount or source of funding – but says a bill will be offered.
“The demand is out there,” Botzek said. “The supply isn’t.”
The draft legislation reads like this: “The commissioner of natural resources shall administer a program to provide cost-share grants to local recreational shooting clubs for up to 50 percent of the costs of developing or rehabilitating shooting sports facilities for public use. A facility rehabilitated or developed under this section must be open to the general public at reasonable times and for a reasonable fee on a walk-in basis.”
The plan for legislation grew from a Minnesota Conservation Federation resolution the group passed at its annual meeting last September.
That resolution encouraged Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders “to explore options for increased matching funding for shooting ranges in order to make needed improvements to buildings, roads, parking lots, and the ranges themselves.”
According to Chuck Niska, the shooting range coordinator in the DNR’s Division of Enforcement, there are about 360 shooting ranges in the state. He’s worked with about one-third of them, but figures the remainder could use assistance of some sort.
The agency is interested in Botzek’s bill, Niska said.
According to Jim Sable, executive director of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, more than 5,000 students have signed up to participate in spring leagues. But due to lack of capacity at gun clubs in the state, about 1,000 of them will have to be turned away.
“Who would have dared to dream that in a relatively short span of time, gun clubs that had lost over 58 percent of their leagues would be turning business away?” Sable wrote in an email. “Many clubs are adding more trap fields in order to garner more business.”
Niska said the high school league is the “fastest-growing opportunity for shooting in Minnesota, much less the nation.” But in addition to needing more capacity for high school shooters, DNR officials also are working on ways to add capacity for the field days that are part of firearm safety.
People in the metro area, in particular, have reported not being able to find places to go, Niska said.
“The demand is out there,” he said. “They want to have a place where they can go and shoot.”
Said Botzek: “Shooting is a growing trend and we need to provide opportunities for the young people to get outdoors, number one, but, number two, to learn how to handle a gun safely.”
BY JOE ALBERT ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Posted on January 30, 2014
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