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Letters to the Editor: Formal shooting range offers solution

I am a gun owner and I target shoot. I live next to an informal shooting range in the National Forest in Ripton. In good weather shooters are there daily, anywhere from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Groups and clubs have 4- to 5-hour meets — all calibers, fully automatics and explosive targets. One individual comes up at least once a year with a 50-caliber tripod mounted machine gun.
The public road, a cabin and national forest campsites may be in the danger zone of the shooting area. The trees above the low berm show extensive damage from bullets routinely exiting the pit toward the cabin and campsites on the other side. There are new, shot-up alcoholic beverage bottles and cans every week.
Long time locals say people have been shooting there for 20-30 years. The NRA says lead should be cleaned from a shooting range every 1-5 years, even with minimal usage. The National Forest has never indicated that a safety evaluation, lead soil test or cleanup have ever been done.
Besides Whiting and Ripton, there are informal ranges in Goshen and Lincoln.  Bristol was working on an Ordinance Regulating Discharge of Firearms because of informal shooting ranges.
The National Forest ranger, Chris Mattrick, has talked about building a free public shooting range in the national forest, like the ones that already exist on other national forest lands across the country. Built to NRA-shooting range design and safety standards, it would have a shelter, shooting tables, the right size berms and a lead management plan — hopefully away from homes. 
Ranger Mattrick and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department held a meeting in Lincoln this past winter. It was to explore the possibility of making the Lincoln informal shooting range a properly designed range. The national forest would provide the land and the state would get it built and managed. The residents near the range said no and it was dropped. Presently there is no formal plan to build a range, so for now these informal ranges are where people have to go.
People need a safe place to shoot. Please ask for the construction of a formal shooting range. Contact the forest ranger, the state fish and wildlife commissioner, and your politicians. The state has offered to manage it, the National Forest has the land and the NRA has given grants to the national forest to build ranges.
Chris Pike
Ripton

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