Lawmakers Warn New York 'Wetlands' Bill Could Force Gun Ranges to Close

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Democrats in Albany have introduced a bill ostensibly aimed at keeping lead out of wetlands, but several lawmakers and gun clubs are warning that the legislation poses an existential threat to the survival of many outdoor ranges. 


S 8461, deceptively billed as the "Sporting Range Good Neighbor Act", imposes new requirements on the size of skeet shooting fields, which could impact existing ranges that can't comply with the 600 yards by 300 yards mandate. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers hidden away in the legislation. 

Norfolk Rod and Gun Club president Jason Collar was on hand for the meeting, presenting the club's concerns to legislators.

Collar told legislators that the legislation places a heavy burden on the club and gives the Department of Environmental Conservation broad discretion to close the facility if wetlands or open water sources are within certain distances of shooting ranges.

If enacted, skeet field tracts at shooting ranges would have to be at least 600 by 300 yards. 

"The cleanup expense is going to come back on the club, we won't be able to afford it. We're going to have to shut down if they push forward with this," Collar said.

When asked by Legislator Larry Denesha if the range utilized a designated space for such activities, which Collar confirmed was the case.

"We do, yes. Skeet itself is a particular activity of shooting sports, another form of shotgun sport where you shoot a clay target. The lead goes up into the air when you're shooting, which is where they are concerned about lead being introduced into wetlands," Collar said.

According to Collar, it's not just club members who participate at the range, but also four school trap teams. A fifth also planned to begin this spring but just missed the cutoff, he said.

"This legislation would directly affect their futures, especially at our club," he said.


Collar notes that while the bill defines terms like "shooting range" and "skeet field tract", it doesn't define "wetland" or "open water source", which could give the Department of Environmental Conservation broad leeway in deciding whether new or existing ranges are in compliance. New York's Freshwater Wetlands Act protects wetlands that are more than 12.4 acres in size, but also allows for enforcement to protect smaller areas of "unusual importance". Starting in January, 2025, the size of protected wetlands will be reduced to 7.4 acres, and in 2028 the law will change once again to cover even more ill-defined areas of the state. 

The DEC notes that "standing water is only one clue that a wetland may be present," adding that "many wetlands only have visible water during certain seasons of the year." In other words, if part of the range is ever muddy or boggy after a prolonged rain, it could very well be considered a wetland subject to closure by the state. 

Two amendments introduced also furthered concerns, with language modified to incorporate not just trap and skeet fields, but also shooting ranges in general. That would also mean that rifle and pistol ranges would be subjected to such scrutiny, Collar said.

"Our club could be affected due to having a pistol range, a rifle range, and a shotgun range. We have to wonder if they will be within those requirements," he said.

Legislators say that shooting ranges already have to meet restrictive guidelines to operate safely, costing as much $100,000 or more to do so.

“There are significant legal and constitutional questions regarding the legality of the measure that have not been adequately addressed,” legislators say.

The idea that further regulations could be put in place did not sit well with some legislators, including Glenn Webster who brought the bill to the board's attention.

"Let's just call it what it is. It's an attack on the Second Amendment," Webster said.


Yep. This could decimate the number of outdoor ranges in New York, which would impact everything from concealed carry courses to competitive shooting... including the growing number of high school trap teams. If you want to choke off the next generation from learning about the joys of shooting in a safe and responsible environment, shutting down ranges is a great way to get started, and this bill would give the DEC the power and authority to close any and every range found to have a "wetland" within its property. 

At the moment S 8461 is pending in the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, so there's still time for New York gun owners to make their objections known. This is another blatant attack on the culture of lawful gun ownership as well as a backdoor attempt to crush the right to keep and bear arms, but with some luck (and an outpouring of opposition) we can keep this egregious infringement from becoming law. 

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