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Reckless target shooters ruin it for everyone

Target shooting can be an enjoyable hobby — as long as it’s done safely. A growing number of visitors to public land on Anderson Butte seem determined to ruin the activity for everyone while endangering lives and property in the process.

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Indiscriminate shooting on the mountain has been a problem for years, but the Bureau of Land Management has had enough. The federal agency is proposing closing 11 sites on Anderson Butte to target shooting for up to two years.

Residents who live on or near the mountain, and those who like to engage in non-lethal recreation there will likely support the decision. A public comment period on the proposed closure is open until Jan. 3.

A story in Saturday’s Mail Tribune described a sign on the mountain offering tips for safe shooting that has been torn apart by bullet holes and shotgun blasts. Another sign marking the Griffin Gap Trailhead sits low to the ground because the tall posts that once supported it were destroyed by gunfire.

Trails in the area are used by hikers, horseback riders, bicyclists and ATV riders. Unsafe shooting practices endanger them all.

People who live nearby have long complained about the reckless gunfire, and with good reason. One former resident interviewed for Saturday’s story moved back to town out of fear for his safety. As he cut wood on his property one day, .45-caliber bullets whizzed just feet over his head. Shooters had set up paper targets and cans in a tree at a vehicle turnout above his property, but there was no backstop.

Gun owners who do not understand ballistics may not be aware of the danger of shooting with no backstop. According to the National Rifle Association, A 9 mm bullet from a handgun will travel up to about 1.2 miles if it does not strike something first. Rifle rounds travel much farther. The Firearm Industry Trade Association’s web page on shooting safety notes that even a .22 short bullet can travel more than 1.25 miles, a 30-06 more than 3 miles. Shotgun pellets travel 500 yards, and a shotgun slug over half a mile.

The NSSF website also says, “No one can call a shot back. Once a gun fires, you have given up all control over where the shot will go or what it will strike. Don’t shoot unless you know exactly what your shot is going to strike. Be sure that your bullet will not injure anyone or anything beyond your target.”

Far too many shooters on Anderson Butte are ignoring this basic safety rule. If the BLM follows through with its proposal and bans shooting, those reckless gun owners will have no one to blame but themselves.

Any supporter of gun rights who behaves in such a fashion is simply inviting more restrictions on their freedom to use a gun when and where they wish.

To comment on the BLM proposal, visit the agency’s website or email BLM_ OR_ AFO_ Anderson_Butte_SP@blm.gov.