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Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052

tel. (860) 229-0213 • fax (860) 229-0235 • e-mail


Legal Opinion

September 2000


Ranges:  Our future

This summer I took my older daughter shooting for the first time. We both had a great time - and I got to thinking about some recent legislation.

I have taught my daughters the Eddie Eagle safety routine since my older one was 4. Now she's 6, and although she knows "stop, don't touch" very well, she had to learn much more before we could shoot. For about a year, we have discussed how guns work, in simple terms. Using plastic "dummy" ammo, we practiced loading, dry-firing, and unloading a child-size .22 single-shot rifle at home. We also had some lessons in range etiquette - range commands, where to stand, etc.

After I was convinced that she was ready for the range, she also had to become convinced. We drove to the range parking lot once for an experiment. I wanted her to learn how noisy the range can be, and, sure enough, the "booms" scared her off for a while. That was good; I didn't want to take her to the firing line if she were be afraid of the noise. I told her that all she had to do was tell me when she was ready to go without minding the noise.

So the day came, in early summer, when she said she was ready. We packed the little rifle, some ammo, and a few guns for me to shoot when she got tired. And we spent an nice hour, continuing to pass along a heritage that goes back to Colonial days.

She did just fine for a newbie. After I adjusted the rifle's sights, she hit a silhouette target. With a little help, she also fired my Glock 17, just to see what it was like.

Every day, I think about how lucky I am as a father. On that day at the range, I also thought of how lucky we were to have a nearby place where we could shoot, especially in Connecticut.

In the past few years we have seen legislative proposals that would severely reduce the number of ranges in this state. Some of the supporters of these proposals were well-meaning people who were misinformed about ranges and range safety. Other supporters would like to use range legislation as a way to revoke the Second Amendment.

Yes, that's what I said - a way to revoke the Second Amendment. I once thought that sounded far-fetched. But if there's no place to shoot, it will be impossible to get new people interested in shooting, whether for recreation or self-defense. And the main thing that keeps the gun-hating politicians in check is that a very large number of Americans own and use firearms. If new people are not introduced to shooting, all the shooters will die out after a while.

Connecticut has a very tough time when it comes to ranges. Connecticut is the most densely populated of the 50 states, according to the Council on Environmental Quality. Any hunter knows that you can't walk three miles in a straight line in this state without coming to a road or a building. So we don't see a lot of new ranges being opened - just old ranges being closed.

Two years ago, the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen took a lot of flak from the pro-gun side about Public Act 98-129. That law protects existing ranges from nuisance lawsuits that could have been brought based on noise complaints. The law is a model for other states to follow, but some pro-gun people complained that the Coalition gave too many concessions on other gun issues in exchange for range protection.

I have to disagree. In the long run, without ranges, there won't BE any other gun issues. Without ranges, my Glock and the little .22 rifle will be nothing more than curiosities for my daughters to examine at home.

Take your child shooting, and think about it.


Copyright 2000 by Ralph D. Sherman

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