The headline of a front-page article in the Aug. 23, Radford News Journal reads: “Forest service proposes fees for shooting range and campgrounds.”
The article states: “The proposed fees would increase … gun range fees from free to $10 per person or $75 for an annual permit.”
District Ranger Dan McKeague said: “For the shooting range, my priorities for the retained fees would be for public safety through improved maintenance and law enforcement presence.”
Really? What public safety problems have there been at the Blacksburg range? Few to none, as far as I know. “Law enforcement presence?” What’s that all about?
Are they going to run checks on license plates, demand to see CHPs, photo IDs or check firearm serial numbers just to make sure they aren’t stolen?
Is this just more government overreach targeting lawful gun owners, or could it be a scheme to drive less affluent shooters away by imposing substantial usage fees for a currently free public facility?
In my opinion, as an NRA-certified firearms instructor and Chief Range Safety Officer (NRA ID# 2188783), public safety benefits far more from free access to a lawful target practice facility than it would from “improved maintenance” and a “law enforcement presence” at the Blacksburg range!
The article also states: “The total operational costs for the [range and campground] sites were $286,505 last year, but revenue from the [proposed] fees is estimated to generate $348,175.”
Curiously, there was no mention of how much the “improved maintenance” of the range and “law enforcement presence” would cost. Once these “programs” start, I would expect costs and fees to skyrocket, a common occurrence with government programs.
Since this is a FEDERAL proposal, if the proposed fees are enacted, I would expect the same treatment for other such facilities in Virginia and elsewhere, further limiting lawful target practice venues available to students, seniors and the poor.
According to the article, the public comment period is open until Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. Comments may be submitted at www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj using the “Contact Us” feature at the bottom of the sidebar on the left side of the page, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by snail mail: George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, Eastern Divide Ranger District, Attn: Recreation Fee Program, 110 Southpark Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24060, or by phone: 540-552-4641.