EC 101 Article 05 A Stealth Campaign by the Gun Lobby Helps Shooting Ranges Win Protections

EC 101 Article 05 A Stealth Campaign by the Gun Lobby Helps Shooting Ranges Win Protections

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A Stealth Campaign by the Gun Lobby Helps Shooting Ranges Win Protections By JOSEPH T. HALLINAN Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL The tranquility of country life ended for Leroy Clayton when a shooting range opened in 1998 on the farm next to his in eastern Georgia. "Sounds like Afghanistan," Mr. Clayton says. But when the 66-year-old barber tried taking the range to court -- arguing that the noise rendered his farm unliveable -- he made a startling discovery: The Georgia Legislature had recently passed a law shielding shooting ranges from noise- related litigation. And the push to do so had come from the headquarters of the National Rifle Association. It is rare for any industry to receive such sweeping legislative protection from civil litigation. But since 1994, the NRA has gone from state to state waging an extraordinary and little-noticed campaign to win broad safeguards for the shooting- range industry. In seven years, the number of states adopting these range-protection laws has surged to 44 from eight. Now the NRA vows to focus on the six remaining states: Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nebraska and Washington. The laws offer shooting ranges wide, and in some cases unprecedented, protection from legal action arising from noise -- a complaint that has been used effectively to close or limit some ranges in the past. In Georgia, for instance, the law provides that "no sport shooting range . .. shall be subject to any action for civil or criminal liability, damages, abatement, or injunctive relief The NRA's Mr. Kozuch says: "In many states there may not have been problems. But it was best just to go ahead and get it passed as a preventative-maintenance measure." Fragmented Industry The shooting-range industry is fragmented, consisting of thousands of mostly mom- and-pop operators. The number of Americans who practice target shooting has jumped 40% in the last five years, to 15.4 million in 2000, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a parent trade group of the range association that is also based in Newtown, Conn. Shooting ranges belong to that category of enterprises -- along with landfills and live-music clubs -- that are despised as neighbors, even by their own customers. Tom Dean, a 71-year- old retiree, avid hunter and NRA member since the 1950s, loved shooting ranges until one opened next to his spread near Sunny Side, Ga., 30 miles south of Atlanta. Soon, he says, lead pellets rained down on his property. His concern wasn't only safety. Shotguns -- often the weapon of choice at shooting ranges -- aren't dangerous much beyond 300 yards. But the noise "is atrocious," he says. Unaware of the NRA's role, Mr. Dean -- who so admired the organization that he gave memberships to family members for Christmas -- wrote the NRA a letter. The NRA sided with the range. The NRA's Mr.
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resulting from or relating to noise generated by the operation of the range." The NRA says the laws are necessary
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EC 101 Article 05 A Stealth Campaign by the Gun Lobby Helps Shooting Ranges Win Protections

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