Users of the Carson Rifle and Pistol Range think Carson City jumped the gun.
In November, the city restricted range hours for drop-in use to the weekend due to safety concerns after city employees and contractors at the landfill said they were dodging stray bullets.
Since then, a group of users have collected more than 1,200 signatures on a petition to reopen the range seven days a week, and on Wednesday the city held a public meeting to discuss the issue.
“I want to start the meeting off letting you all know how important the range is to the city,” said Supervisor Lori Bagwell, who led the meeting attended by more than 100 people. “The city must recognize safety first. We had to close it for the safety of employees, landfill users, and gun range users.”
The city is working now with the National Rifle Association to bring in a range team technical adviser to do a safety assessment. Nevada Department of Wildlife, a partner in the range, is doing a separate assessment to be conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Depending on those results, the city may also form a working group including range users to advise and recommend solutions.
During the meeting, Bagwell said the issue has arisen after more than 35 years because of changes at the landfill, which is next door to the range.
“Why is it now a problem? We’re growing. The landfill is getting wider and higher, which means it’s getting closer to line of sight,” she said.
But, those attending the meeting said there’s no evidence the bullets entering the landfill are from the range and could instead be coming from shooters in other nearby locations.
“Can’t we use the range open and freely until we know where the rounds are coming from?” asked Chris Pattison, who launched the petition and was one of three dozen attendees who spoke during the meeting.
Curtis Horton, deputy director, Public Works, said after the meeting the city doesn’t know conclusively where the bullets are originating and have stepped up patrols all around the area.
“We know for a fact the bullets are impacting the landfill, we don’t know where they’re coming from,” he said. “We have to take the most prudent action.”
Another attendee said the city should think abut the “unintended consequences,” of limiting the public’s access to the range, even temporarily, because people will go into the hills and shoot.
“One bullet flying by the landfill is nothing compared to what you’ll see,” said one attendee.
Several attendees also questioned the role of the Carson Rifle and Pistol Club, which operates the range through a 20-year-old agreement with the city.
“Somehow we’ve allowed a club to take control of this range from the public,” said Chris Carver.
The club provides volunteer range safety officers, or RSOs, although several speakers said the range until recently was largely self-policing without any incident.
The hours for the public are being limited to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, because the landfill is closed and the club can provide RSOs during those hours.
Four bays at the range can be reserved any time, but only by members of the club or other organizations that can provide RSOs.
Jennifer Budge, director, Parks, Recreation, and Open Space, after the meeting said the agreement between the club and city can be automatically renewed every three years and her preference would be to continue with a one-year agreement while the city works on addressing the safety issues. After that, she said the agreement, if continued, needs to be revised and she has asked the club to come up with its visions for the range.
Some ideas bandied about at the meeting included charging non-locals for use of the range to pay deputies from the Sheriff’s Office to patrol it instead, or organizing users to get RSO certification and pay for insurance to monitor the range themselves.