Shooting Ranges Protected by Michigan Supreme Court Ruling

Almost a year ago, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that would decide whether or not the Sport Shooting Ranges Act, which protects shooting ranges from nuisance zoning regulations, applies to shooting ranges that have commercial activities, such as range fees or a sales counter. On April 1, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled that shooting ranges are protected by the Sport Shooting Ranges Act (SSRA), and that commercial activities are irrelevant to the SSRA.
The case started when a private shooting range was issued a misdemeanor citation for failing to get a zoning waiver. However, the Sport Shooting Ranges Act grandfathers in shooting ranges in existence since before the act was originally passed in 1994, so that they are not subject to nuisance zoning requirements passed afterwards as long as they operate within generally accepted practices. The Michigan Court of Appeals, however, had decided that the SSRA did not apply to this range because it had commercial activities, such as range fees and marksmanship lessons. Attorneys for the range argued that the SSRA didn't exclude ranges with commercial activities, and the case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, where Michigan United Conservation Clubs submitted and amicus (friend of the court) brief because of the negative impact the Court of Appeals' ruling could have on MUCC affiliate clubs with ranges.
During the oral arguments last April, one of the justices asked a telling question that MUCC hoped would lead to the conclusion they reached yesterday: "Where in the Sport Shooting Ranges Act does it exclude commercial activities?" It's simply not there. And that's the conclusion that the Court reached in its April 1 opinion, authored by Justice Michael F. Cavenaugh. He wrote that, "the Court of Appeals erroneously injected a commercial purpose analysis into the determination whether a shooting range was designed and operated as a sport shooting range."
So what does this mean? It means that sport shooting ranges in Michigan are protected, and that charging range fees, or providing shooting lessons, or selling ammo or snacks won't jeopardize a shooting range's protection under the Sport Shooting Ranges Act and open the range up to nuisance zoning restrictions when someone builds a new subdivision down the road. The Barnhartts, the attorneys, and the Michigan Supreme Court should be commended. The Court looked at the language of the law, applied it to the facts of the case, and protected sport shooting ranges in Michigan.

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