Council members shoot for gun range
Practice area is needed for safety, advocates say
HILO — A long-awaited public gun range for Hawaii Island may finally get a shot at success, depending on how the County Council handles a resolution up for vote next week.
Resolution 246, scheduled for consideration at 1 p.m. Tuesday by the Committee on Public Works and Parks and Recreation, asks for council endorsement of the need for a shooting range on the island. It also calls for the creation of a working group of recreational shooters, hunters and government agencies.
The meeting will be held in Hilo council chambers, but people may also testify via videoconference from the West Hawaii Civic Center, Pahoa council office, Naalehu state office building or the old Kohala courthouse.
Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, co-sponsor of the resolution along with Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, said he’s offering the legislation after hearing from many constituents, including law enforcement, about the need for a place to shoot. An outdoor range would provide a location to teach people how to handle guns, to give enthusiasts a place to practice and to hold tournaments, he said.
“There’s been a long-term conversation about whether or not we are going to get a shooting range,” Richards said Thursday.
Even employees of the Hawaii Police Department and state and federal law enforcement
agencies don’t have a suitable place to train, he said. There’s also a growing interest in gun safety and shooting sports in schools and local youth organizations who also don’t have a public place to practice, he said.
The working group would determine the type of shooting venues desired, for example rifle, pistol, shotgun, air gun, archery or other shooting sports. It would also determine basic infrastructure such as how much land would be needed and create a list and description of shooting venues desired, along with the required infrastructure and the priority of construction.
Details such as design estimates, timing of the phasing in construction, operational costs and sources of revenue would also be determined by the working group.
Tom Lodge, chairman of the county Game Management Advisory Commission, said people wanting to shoot recreationally or to keep their skills sharp must find a private land owner who has enough acreage to allow shooting on the property. That’s not an ideal situation, he said.
Lodge said a gun range, or several gun ranges, for the island is a top priority of the Game Management Advisory Commission this year. He believes the county would be the ideal entity to focus on the issue and help bring it about.
“We don’t want politics involved in this thing,” Lodge said. “We just want a range where people can use guns safely.”
The nonprofit On Target Inc. has been trying for almost 15 years to get a shooting range approved for Puuanahulu, but has met with delays from state funding sources and resistance from Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, which says the location could pose noise problems for residents at Waikoloa resorts. Opponents have not been persuaded by several sound tests that have been conducted from the area.
The state Legislature in 2015 killed a measure that would have appropriated about $800,000 to complete an environmental impact statement and develop community outreach for that project. The year before that, the state failed to provide $200,000 of state matching funds that would have in turn garnered $ 600,000 in federal PittmanRobertson range development money.
Pittman-Robertson funds come from a tax on firearms and ammunition. About 250,000 firearms are registered in Hawaii County, according to gun enthusiasts.
Organized activity to develop a comprehensive safe and supervised island shooting facility commenced in 2004. Following 15 years of prior search and evaluation, the Puuanahulu location was selected in 2005. Design requirements were finalized in 2011. A master plan and environmental assessment was initiated in 2012. The last of three scientifically conducted sound analyses was completed in 2015.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources commissioned additional sound testing at the proposed Puuanahulu Shooting Range on Hawaii Island Thursday.