Civilian-Marksmanship-Programs Cut, But Access Remains
A ten-year review of national gun laws reveals that public access to federal shooting ranges has been preserved. A little-known law states that any rifle range built at least partially by federal money may be used by the military and the public. This covers, for example, the Sandra Day O'Connor courthouse range in Phoenix.
Other features of the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) were abandoned, such as free .22 and .30 caliber ammunition for the public and youth groups. The rewrite of these laws are included in the completely updated 5th edition of "Gun Laws of America," to be released this month. Details are posted at gunlaws.com.
Enacted in 1956 at the height of Cold War tensions under president Eisenhower, and repealed in 1996 from gun-control pressure under president Clinton, CMP was designed to ensure the public was proficient with firearms, for national safety. This affected every knuckle-dragging, pistol-packing pocket-rocket bubba in America. All of the nation's estimated 80 million gun owners benefit from the range-access law.
Regulations for military and public access must be written by whoever controls the range. Fees may be charged in some cases, and the military has first call on use of the range. In the case of ranges at military sites, public use of the range may not interfere with use by the armed forces. Many federal ranges are not military.
"If more people knew about this law and went to the ranges, the increase in training would have a beneficial effect on gun safety," said Alan Korwin, the author of Gun Laws of America. "The basement shooting range in the new Sandra Day O'Connor federal court house in downtown Phoenix would be a welcome addition to the limited facilities this large city has." Korwin believes a lack of adequate places to practice marksmanship may infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms. "The Second Amendment protects the right of people to practice with the guns they bear," he says, a point recognized by this law, known as 10 USC §4309. "Otherwise, it's like free speech with no talking aloud."
Public access to federal shooting ranges is authorized in this law, one of the 271 federal gun laws included in "Gun Laws of America":
10 USC § 4309. Rifle ranges: availability for use by members and civilians
(a) Ranges available. -- All rifle ranges constructed in whole or in part with funds provided by the United States may be used by members of the armed forces and by persons capable of bearing arms.
(b) Military ranges. --
(1) In the case of a rifle range referred to in subsection (a) that is located on a military installation, the Secretary concerned may establish reasonable fees for the use by civilians of that rifle range to cover the material and supply costs incurred by the armed forces to make that rifle range available to civilians.
(2) Fees collected pursuant to paragraph (1) in connection with the use of a rifle range shall be credited to the appropriation available for the operation and maintenance of that rifle range and shall be available for the operation and maintenance of that rifle range.
(3) Use of a rifle range referred to in paragraph (1) by civilians may not interfere with the use of the range by members of the armed forces.
(c) Regulations. -- Regulations to carry out this section with respect to a rifle range shall be prescribed, subject to the approval of the Secretary concerned, by the authorities controlling the rifle range.