MUCC: Court Ruling is Attack on Shooting Range Rights
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, July 26, 2012
Contact: Kent Wood - (517) 346-6462 LANSING, MI -- Michigan citizens have the statutory right to operate a shooting range without fear of nuisance lawsuits. That right was granted under protections established in 1989 with the passage of the Sport Shooting Ranges Act. But a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling attempts to deny those rights to Michigan's citizens. Because of this, Michigan United Conservation Clubs has stepped in to ensure the Michigan Supreme Court rights this wrong.
MUCC has filed an Amicus Curiae brief with the Michigan Supreme Court in the case of Township of Addison v. Jerry Kline Barnhart. The brief supports defendant Jerry Barnhart’s application for leave to appeal the Supreme Court from a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that denies the majority of sporting shooting ranges across Michigan the protections granted under the Sport Shooting Range Act (SSRA) (Public Act 269 of 1989).
The case at hand stems from earlier disputes between the two parties that were thrown out in Oakland County’s lower courts. The Michigan Court of Appeals inexplicably overruled these courts, and turned the case into a broad mandate against shooting ranges by declaring that any evidence to show that a range was being used for “business or commercial purposes” nullified SSRA protection for those ranges.
In fact, the act makes no mention of disallowing protections for any type of shooting range, whether public, private, nonprofit, or commercially run. Instead, the SSRA expressly includes ranges run by proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations – all of which are types of commercial business entities.
The Court of Appeals’ unprecedented narrowing of the SSRA would also leave in its wake shooting ranges that have been the staples of sportsmen’s clubs and conservation organizations for generations. Most clubs routinely charge fees for range use and instructional classes and sell ammunition and equipment, both to cover range costs and as a way of raising revenue for the club. In fact, most clubs and ranges would not be able to continue operating without generating revenue from the range.
All of these are types of business and commercial activity that have always been acceptable ways to run a club and shooting range that were suddenly put at risk by the Court of Appeals.
“What we have is a poorly-constructed decision by a court that's at best unfamiliar with shooting ranges or, at worst, blatantly anti-gun. The decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals flies directly in the face of what the SSRA was designed to do – protect all compliant Michigan sport shooting ranges from the bevy of junk lawsuits and burdensome ordinances against them that have followed from the expansion and development in areas around shooting ranges,” said MUCC’s Executive Director Erin McDonough. “MUCC was one of the driving forces behind the adoption of the SSRA back in 1989, and worked for the broader protections sought in the 1994 amendments because local governments and the people developing around ranges were using lawsuits and new ordinances to harass and shut down sport shooting ranges that had been established for decades.
“Recreational shooting is an incredibly popular and family-oriented recreational activity both statewide and nationally, with more than 21 million Americans taking part in some type of shooting activity each year,” McDonough said. “Not only do shooting sports put hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy, but in an increasingly busy world, it is another way to get kids and families outdoors. MUCC hopes the Michigan Supreme Court will look at this case and consider not only the poor legal precedent the Court of Appeals decision sets, but also the harm done to the future of our sport shooting tradition in the state of Michigan.”
McDonough also noted that MUCC has close to 125 member clubs that maintain shooting ranges, many of whom charge membership and shooting fees, provide instruction and safety classes for fees, and sell ammunition and equipment. Nearly all of them would be denied the protections of the SSRA under the appeals court’s ruling.
The SSRA, originally adopted in 1989, was based on the Right to Farm Act for the purpose of preserving and protecting the existence of all shooting ranges from lawsuits and local ordinances brought on as urban sprawl moved new development into rural areas. The act specified that the shooting ranges covered by the act must have been in existence at the time of the amendment in 1994, and must comply with generally accepted operation practices. No other requirements are asked of the ranges in order to be protected by the act.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs is largest statewide conservation organization in the nation. Through over 42,000 members and 250 affiliated clubs, MUCC works to accomplish its mission of Uniting Citizens to Conserve and Enhance Michigan's Natural Resources and Protect OUR Outdoor Heritage.