By Jay Printz | Saturday, March 18th, 2006 at 9:36 am
The anti-second-amendment Democrats are behind this apparantly innocuous, not-so-non-partisan effort to modify state park usage in Montana. Who would have guessed?
Here’s a local story with national significance. For more than fifty years, the Montana citizens who live near Makoshika State Park have practiced shooting their pistols and rifles at plywood targets on the park’s shooting range. Now park officials want to close the range. They fear that the increasing number of out-of-state visitors will be bothered by the sound of gunfire. Worse yet, the visitors could wander over a hilltop and into the wrong end of the range, and get shot. From Associated Press:
Rifle Range Gets the Boot From Mont. Park
By SUSAN GALLAGHER
HELENA, Mont. – Erosion by wind and water is a big part of the story at Makoshika State Park, a place of badlands and dinosaur fossils, bobcats and bluebirds. Now some people who enjoy firing guns at a range there fear erosion of what they have come to view as an entitlement.
The state parks agency plans to eliminate a decades-old rifle range at Makoshika, a rolling expanse of peculiar sandstone formations in eastern Montana. The 11,500-acre park gets about 54,000 visits a year, and is especially popular among gun enthusiasts in Glendive, about a quarter-mile from the rifle range and its plywood targets.
“Things have changed,” said Tom Reilly, an assistant administrator in the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “Now we have a visitor center on one side and a public campground on the other.”
Shooting may disturb people who “come from New Jersey to camp and wake up to gunfire,” he said “We may be used to that, living here, but others may not be.”
The state agency’s new 10-year management plan for Makoshika calls for moving the shooting range, but no new site has been selected.
That concerns Glendive shooters such as Ernest Huether, who sells and repairs guns. He worries the alternative to the state range will be a private one, with fees and a less convenient location.
Another shooter, Henry Mischel of the Dawson County Rod & Gun Club, said state planners should keep in mind that guns are a traditional part of life in Montana.
His response to concerns about visitors: “I don’t like the sound of sirens when I go to a big city, but I have to deal with it.”
Mischel said the rifle range has existed at least for the 50 years he has lived in Glendive. On a busy day, the range â€” passed by visitors heading to the park’s interior â€” draws dozens of shooters carrying handguns and rifles.
The new Makoshika plan, prepared after study of recommendations from a public advisory group, was approved in late 2005 by Jeff Hagener, director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The state commission overseeing the agency will take up an appeal Monday by John N. Haas of Glendive, who has challenged removal of the range. Eliminating it might be OK were there a suitable replacement, but one has not been found, Haas said.
“I’m not sure that a suitable replacement site exists â€” it depends on what is defined as suitable,” he wrote in the appeal. And without an alternative site, he said, “future development within the park cannot successfully be planned around a faulty assumption that the range will be moved.”
There have been no reports of accidents or close calls associated with the range, but the plan says “the possibility of a misfire” into a populated area cannot be ignored.
“People wander all over,” said Jim Swanson of the park advocacy group Friends of Makoshika. “They can drop over a hill and, boom, they’re right in a rifle range.”
The gun range was in place first. The park service then put a visitor’s center on one side, and a campground on the other. Then they decided this was no longer a desirable place for the gun range?????
How many people coming to stay at the campground consider the range to be one of the local recreational amenities? Has anyone even raised that question?
You would probably be safer wandering through the wrong end of that gun range than you would be wandering the streets of Washington, DC at night. Or, for that matter, many inner city locations in the above-mentioned New Jersey.
And OH HO HO HO HO!!!! Who would have guessed? Jim Swanson, the “friend of the park” who is harassing the gun owners and range users, is a Democratic activist. He is the treasurer of the committee to elect Katherine Lee, Democrat, to the Montana state senate. And, as she mentions in her list of credentials, she is also a “friend of the park.”
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