I am an NRA-certified range safety officer, and a volunteer out at the Joe Foss Shooting Complex. I am a member of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association. I am a former national Hunter Safety Course-certified instructor. I have hunted and used firearms for the past 65 years. I am a disabled, retired (due to gunshot wounds received while on duty) deputy sheriff from the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office in Montana. I have been a freelance outdoor/hunting magazine writer for the past 30 years, with over 200 articles published in national magazines. I know what I am talking about when it comes to responsible and ethical firearm handling and use.
I live in the Westpark neighborhood just south of the so-called BLM target shooting range on the Tonopah Salome Highway, and am within stray bullet distance. I strongly advocated for the closure of that site. I am so glad BLM finally came to their senses and closed the site. Sadly, it took the death of a young woman, Kami Gilstrap — and her unborn baby — who was struck and killed by a stray bullet while recreating with her family and friends nearly a mile away, to generate enough of an outcry to close the site.
Even if BLM wants to forget about that day and take no responsibility for concentrating the shooters and creating the mess that led to 24/7 gunfire and Tannerite explosions, and eventually to Kami’s death. I remember hundreds of shooters were out there that day. Tens of thousands of rounds were being fired in all directions. Medical first responders and law enforcement on scene reported bullets whizzing around them as they tried to determine how Kami Gilstrap was killed. One person who had recently returned from military service in Iraq was there with a news crew. He stated that he was more concerned about being shot that day than when he was in combat in Iraq. Since Kami’s death, but prior to the final closing of the BLM target shooting area, the Buckeye Police Department and Maricopa County Sheriff Office made numerous felony arrests and resolved several felony cases of people who continued to shoot in that area. Now, before BLM has made any effort to clean up the landfill and the potential EPA superfund site they created on Tonopah Salome Highway, they want to create four more landfills they naïvely call “recreational shooting microsites.”
BLM correctly states 97% of the BLM land is open to public recreational shooting. With the development of the four microsites, the rest of that BLM land will still remain open to recreational shooting. If recreational shooting were prohibited on the rest of the BLM land after the microsites were developed, then it would make sense. But without that prohibition, and the enforcement of it, the BLM recreational shooting sites are no more than just a waste of taxpayer dollars. Concentrate the shooter garbage and the irresponsible, unsafe and illegal activity to the microsites, and leave the other 97% of BLM land to the 97% of the public that recreate, in other ways, on those lands.
The fact is most BLM land is restricted to public use. You can’t camp on BLM land for extended time; you can’t run your off-highway vehicle or dirt bike off established roads or trails; you can’t build a campfire wherever you want; you can’t litter or dump your yard waste. The fact is there isn’t much you can do on BLM land — except shoot — without a permit of some kind.
The Joe Foss Shooting Complex belongs to Maricopa County and is managed by the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association (ASRPA). The range offers archery, rifle, pistol and shotgun shooting areas. NRA-certified range safety officers are on site to ensure everyone is safely enjoying a day of shooting. The range is clean, centrally located and secure. And it is on land that actually belongs to BLM.
BLM should take their recreational shooting microsite development money and partner with ASRPA, Arizona Game and Fish (at Ben Avery Shooting Facility) and Maricopa County to enhance those recreational target shooting complexes and leave the landfill business to the Waste Management folks.