By Elizabeth O’Nan

Lead by the National Rifle Association (NRA), shooting ranges are being located on public land and on the US Forest Service lands across our nation.


One of the often cited reasons to permit shooting ranges is that gun owners violate laws in order to practice shooting when they are not provided with publicly funded shooting ranges.  The public should not be willing to indemnify sport hunters who will not obey the law. Rewarding bad behavior will not result in compliance. If enforcement agencies cannot or will not enforce the laws to prevent illegal shooting, they should not be allowed to spend more money to provide dangerous, toxic, and noisy shooting ranges, particularly not located on public lands.  


Taxpayers should not be asked to pay for clean up or suffer lowered IQs and other health problems for a minority (less than 4%) of miscreant gun users.  Additionally, there is no way to make any shooting range compliant with Americans Disabilities Act (ADA)when inevitable lead exposures will prevent those disabled by Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance from access.  ADA non-compliance potentially may result in the loss of all federal funding for the ADA non-compliant states. 


The primary reason the NRA and sports hunters are insisting on putting shooting ranges on public land is because they wish to shift liability for lead contamination and shootings to avoid liability.  Most companies offering small business liability policies do not offer any insurance for shooting ranges of any type.  (for instance-  There is no coverage available for indoor or outdoor shooting ranges.  Both indoor and outdoor ranges have serious health and environmental risks from lead.  Indoor facilities have expensive maintenance that if neglected results in massive contamination (as most operations with bag houses to collect pollution can testify).  This is why the NRA has gone into the insurance business- so that they can keep shooting ranges alive until they can shift the liability burden onto the taxpayers by locating shooting ranges on public property.  The NRA knows the threat/risk or they would not be kicking in $25K for each shooting range on public property.  The NRA can’t afford the insurance either.


Blogs on setting up private shooting ranges consistently report the profits are not there to pay the costs of operation, much less the liability insurance.  This is an article about lead from shooting ranges.


Another reason to ban shooting ranges, particularly on public property, is due to rulings that bar the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulation of lead on US Forest Service lands. Heavily supported by the NRA this rule will make it impossible to regulate or protect humans and wildlife from bullet-derived lead.  Finding 6,600 lbs of lead resulting from “illegal target practice” on public land should prompt an end to guns on public land not codification of excessive lead levels from shooting ranges, which does not include lead contamination from legal hunting.



Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) condemns the inadequate effort by the EPA to establish new lead levels that are adequately protective of the public health. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee noted in an April 2008 study that the upper limits proposed by EPA would cause cognitive and developmental problems in young children exposed to those emissions,” said Dr. Michael McCally, MD, PhD, Executive Director of PSR.  PSR program director Dr. Kristen Welker-Hood worked to coordinate a letter to EPA Administration Steven Johnson from more than 200 physicians, public health officials and scientists urging the adoption of the 0.02 micrograms per cubic meter standard in order to protect public health, as required by the Clean Air Act.


The problem is there is no good place to put a bad practice.  Electronic shooting practice is the safest method.  If we trust airplane test pilots to train with electronic equipment it should be good enough for gun owners.  Lifetime neurological damage or the loss of a loved one or abusive repetitious gun noise is too high a price for gun practice. 


Attacks on tourists and their pets by loose hunting dogs and accidental shootings are another reason to ban hunting on public lands.  No one should have to fear for their lives in order to use and enjoy public lands.  Nothing done on public lands should poison the water, air or environment for adjoining private property owners or nearby communities.  In short there is no good place to put locally undesirable land uses such as shooting ranges or hunting, much less on public property.  The 4% of Sports hunters and the NRA do not own our public lands even if they have captured the enforcement agencies and our government officials with Wildlife Commissions and  the USFS who have broken trust with the American people by not protecting our public lands.


It is blatant environmental injustice to locate shooting ranges on public property and on poorer, underserved communities.  Studies have shown that because of where toxic industries locate neighbors have higher levels of cancer and other health problems.  


Enforcement agencies have expected the public to accept shooting ranges on public land without disclosing essential information such as specifics about their environmental assessment or even traffic conflicts.  Have they used proper bid procedures, or licensed engineers?  Have they provided information on health impacts, emergency plans for potential rampage incidents, or sound tests?  The answer in many cases is NO.  Also of importance, they have failed to make their meetings on gun ranges known to the public.  They often do not list meetings with the other notifications on their website or publish meetings in public places.


It is important that we do not allow this injustice and abuse to continue, especially as we are experiencing a climate crisis that is exponentially increasing wildlife extinction.  Ask your elected officials to ban shooting ranges.


Elizabeth O’Nan is the founder/director for Protect All Children’s Environment, est. 1987 for the chemically injured and disabled. She serves on the Executive Board of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and is the Chair of BREDL’s Forest Stewardship Committee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shooting ranges also pay into the FWS and state game agencies via the excise taxes on firearms and ammo.


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561