Table Scraps are for Dogs

by LF (11/97)

I always resent acting like a relatively tame libertarian.

Not too long ago members of the Wake County Board of Commisioners started pushing for three-point-something million dollars for a dual-purpose police/public shooting range in the area. Depending on the audience they were doing the dog-and-pony show for, the proponents promoted it as either a screaming law-enforcement necessity (some cops in the sticks still simply park their cars in private fields and start whaling away, which tends to frighten the Northern yuppies who have moved down like a plague in the last ten years) with additional benefits for private citizens, or ignored the police angle entirely and simply pitched it as a wonderful gimme for those taxpayers still backwards enough to own firearms.

I sent the following calm, rational letter in to the local monopoly paper:

While I'm one of the more vocal pro-gun advocates in the Triangle, I am strongly against forcing the taxpayers of Wake County to fund a public shooting range. It is disheartening to see how quickly many supposedly "conservative" folks will belly up to the trough when they scent something in their favor.

If our elected representatives on the relevant commissions, boards, and the like truly believe that county residents need another place to shoot, they can expedite construction by promising -- in a legally binding fashion, of course -- not to shut down any new ranges for X number of years regardless of the pressure later brought to bear (e.g., when a development gets built next to an existing range, its residents should not be able to belatedly develop actionable concerns about "noise pollution"). With such a guarantee, entrepreneurs should then find it easier to raise money as a long-term commitment should prove much more atttractive to potential investors.

While the above was acceptable in that it hit some of the basics and at least got printed unedited (a rarity), I wanted to say so much more. Please allow me to share the rest of my thoughts on the subject.

You know what I smell behind this impending handout? Shotgunners. Actually, that is not fair. I know a lot of good people who own shotguns. What I mean are the obnoxious members of the Trapshooting, Sporting Clays, and Upland Gaming set. The types that counsel political expediency while standing safely in the snottier gun shops -- i.e., the guys that give you that funny look when you politely ask the jerk behind the counter for permission to check out a gun constructed largely of space-age plastics. Many of this damned breed still hold on to the ridiculous notion that because they toss a few hundreds or thousands into a handful of national, state, or even local races that their brutally expensive over-and-unders will never get sent to the crusher -- or at least not until they themselves are safely pushing up the daisies. The rest are the usual band of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and academics who got into sport shooting through some accident of their upbringing, who believe in their hearts that gun control aimed at the dirty little people is probably a net plus for their comfortable slice of society. Members of this latter group can also be found on zoning boards pushing for higher housing unit costs in their neighborhoods, in environmental groups promoting the expenditure of tax money to acquire land in areas inaccessible to those with limited funds and vacation time, and infesting various professional organizations like the AMA, scrambling to keep out low-cost competition through strictly-enforced government regulation of their rackets.

You wouldn't have believed some of the claptrap the pro-range forces were pushing. Apparently, the mere presence of benches and backstops can magically teach safe gun handling (a favorite talking point), because there was no mention of funding for a range officer in the orginal figures. Now, having spent twenty-some years as a shooter, I know that there are a lot of folks out there who are just plain lucky that they've seen enough movies to know which end of a gun not to point at their own head. As a result, I've had a number of quite animated conversations with dolts who insist on: stapling their target dead-center on a wooden frame's uprights (where's the bullet gonna go, schmuck, or were you planning on missing?), cranking up the rear sight of their SKSs all the way in order to "see what'll happen", or playing with their guns while others are downrange. Now before any anti-gunners out there start composing e-mails about the evils of incompetent armed civilians, let me emphasize that at least some of the offenders were ex-police and military guys -- safe practices come through repetition, thinking, and reinforcement, not from having them excruciatingly drilled into your head in boot camp or the academy humpteen years ago. In addition, remember that cops are many times more likely to shoot innocents than armed citizens -- though to be fair we should keep in mind that a large part of that unfortunate statistic may very well be due to the fact that they can.

At least members of private clubs have a direct interest in keeping their pools piss-free, and at my current range we feel obligated to act as our own ROs, jumping on each other for performing monkey-like acts whenever necessary. Now seriously, do you think anyone at a public range will possibly give a fuck about any breach of conduct that does not immediately threaten their own lives -- or even bother to clean up after themselves, for that matter? So either a full-time babysitter will have to be hired (driving up the cost of this bit of supposed benevolence), or the "public" portion of the range's hours will get sliced off the first time some Barney nails some Gomer in the backside.

Don't forget the obvious paranoid angle. I would not be surprised if the public range is eventually used as an excuse to start shutting down private ranges via the rationale that there is now a 100% SAFE, PUBLIC place for shooters. As soon as its last inexpensive private competitor is zoned out of operation, you can bet that the upscale dilettantes will link arms with the outright anti-gunners to start imposing outrageous usage fees on non-cop users, along with time-consuming and expensive training requirements.

My point? ALWAYS look a government gift horse in the mouth. Count on it to be exhaling the stench of a truly nasty agenda.

Up the spout