Coun­cil mem­bers shoot for gun range

Prac­tice area is needed for safety, ad­vo­cates say

West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - BY NANCY COOK LAUER ncook-lauer@west­hawai­ito­day.com

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.

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