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California: Commerce City Council Postpones Vote on Range Closure in Response to NRA's Request for Study Time

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

 On February 15, 2010, the City Council for the City of Commerce postponed a vote over the future of the James W. Bristow Marksmanship Range in Commerce’s Veterans Memorial Park.  The Council had been poised to order the range shut down permanently, but instead postponed their decision in response to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) request for time to study the situation. This request was reiterated by several members of the public who spoke to oppose the closure of the range.  Not one public speaker was in favor of the range’s closure. 

In the fall of 2009, Commerce “temporarily” closed the range based on air sampling that indicated the presence of lead nearby.  About a month later, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) issued a “Notice to Comply” to Commerce regarding the range operation.  The AQMD Notice to Comply alleged unresolved lead dust issues around the range, and instructed the City that it could not reopen the range until it got the District’s approval.  

The Bristow Range is a unique facility.  Named after one of the City’s founders, this range is a public facility that is operated by the City of Commerce’s Parks and Recreation Department.  The range is located below ground in the Veterans’ Memorial Park Building, which is used for various recreational activities.  Built in 1971 on top of a landfill, this building is experiencing foundational subsidence issues, which only adds to the complexity and uncertainty of the range’s future. 

Comments made at the February 16 meeting indicate  that the range has not had proactive management, the range has not been properly promoted, and operators have not sought governmental (or other) contract users of the range which can effectively subsidize the operating costs, or potentially even make it profitable. Only 209 residents paid to use the range in 2009. That lack of public participation is something the Council focused on during the recent meeting. Accordingly, now is the time to let the City of Commerce know that usage numbers cannot tell the whole story.

In the next month, the NRA intends to review the situation to see what, if anything, can be taken to save this Range. Usage and management issues, in addition to environmental, technical, and safety issues, will be evaluated by NRA Range Development and Protection Division staff, NRA California staff, and local grassroots activists.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.