Pros and cons of gun ranges … letter written to the Red Wing City Council


I wrote this to the City Council because I live here and nobody seemed to be mentioning the issues that I think really matter.  None acknowledged it.  None brought up any of these issues in a long and tedious meeting.  Nobody seems to be minding the store or looking out for the best interests of residents.   Worth noting is that one of the people behind the gun range proposal is Jason Sebion, recently resigned from the City Council.  The promoters want to buy a large city-owned building for $1000.  My concern, per usual, is for health and welfare issues ignored by all the council members.  None of this has anything in particular to do with how one feels about guns in general.


April 11, 2016

Red Wing Mayor/Council (staff) (staff)

Dear Members of Council:

Two points:

(1) Red Wing is a relatively peaceful place. Would adding a shooting range, including gun rental and retail gun sales as proposed, increase the general population of guns/armed citizens in the area and potentially increase levels of shootings/violence? Is this part of the “brand” Red Wing wants?

(2) Shooting ranges are strongly associated with lead contamination and lead poisoning. A Google search a few minutes ago on “health hazards from shooting ranges” yielded about 289,000 results, including these:

Indoor Shooting Ranges

Indoor shooting ranges have been identified as serious lead poisoners since at least the mid-1970s, documented in a string of studies by public health authorities.29 Although an official of a major shooting range supply company attacked the early warnings as “lead-intoxication hysteria” in a 1976 issue of The Police Chief magazine,30 no serious challenge has been mounted to the growing body of science underlying the indisputable fact that lead poisoning is a serious threat to health at indoor shooting ranges.i

An NRA official speaking in 1990 said, “Lead contamination directly contributed to closing hundreds of indoor ranges in the last 20 years.”31 Nevertheless, indoor shooting ranges continue to appear regularly in public health records and news stories as major offenders for lead poisoning. For example, the California Department of Health Services reported that, among commercial industries, indoor firing ranges had the largest number of lead poisoning cases as recently as 1993 and 1994.32 Problems with lead overexposure also continue to be regularly seen at law enforcement firing ranges33 and at both active and abandoned firing ranges located within school buildings. But most privately operated firing ranges (shooting clubs, for example) are completely unregulated by public health authorities, even though they present major health problems for their staff and users.
Lead hazards at indoor firing ranges Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Exposures to airborne and settled lead dust at firing ranges put employees, instructors and customers at risk for lead poisoning. “Take-home” exposure is especially dangerous to children ages six and younger, because lead is toxic to the brain and can cause permanent damage.

Lead Poisoning: A Hidden Danger at Shooting Ranges
by Susan Donaldson James

Children are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead because their brains are still developing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Negative health effects can be lifelong.
Yet many firing ranges host birthday parties and other events where youngsters can ingest lead after touching contaminated surfaces.
Loaded with Lead: Lead poisoning is a major threat at America’s shooting ranges, perpetuated by owners who’ve repeatedly violated laws even after workers have fallen painfully ill.

Thousands of people, including workers, shooters and their family members, have been contaminated at shooting ranges due to poor ventilation and contact with lead-coated surfaces, a Seattle Times investigation has found.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Indoor firing and shooting ranges are common sources of adult lead exposure in Colorado. Workers and shooting hobbyist at indoor firing ranges can be exposed to hazardous lead concentrations and may be at risk for lead exposure and poisoning. If you work or volunteer in a shooting range, are a law enforcement officer, target and hobby shooter, or part of a shooting team, you should know the health effects and symptoms of lead exposure, how to prevent lead exposure, and how to get tested for lead poisoning.

The National Rifle Association, The Range Source Book, A Guide to Planning and Construction, (674 pages) says (at page II-1-4):

“Inhalation (breathing) and ingestion (swallowing) of airborne particulate lead is also a health issue to be aware of when on a shooting range. Protecting yourself through common sense and good personal hygiene is your responsibility. You owe it to yourself and to your family to take care of your health. After working or shooting on a shooting range, ALWAYS wash your hands, arms, and face before smoking or eating. If you fail to do this, you will be putting lead dust directly into your mouth.

Given these facts, before proceeding wth any approvals for the gun range proposal, the City of Red Wing should:
Carefully consider how sush a project would “preserve and promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the public.” (Red Wing Zoning Ordinance, 5-30 (A)).
Seek a Health Impact Analysis through the Minnesota Department of Health and the Goodhue County Public Health Division.
Seek environmental review of the project pursuant to the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act.
Determine the adequacy and current status of State of Minnesota laws, including Shooting Range Protection Act, and regulations applicable to shooting ranges, such as state’s adoption of NRA’s Range Source Book as shooting range standards.
Also, it strikes me that if the City were to essentially give the building to the range promoters are proposed, and a range were to start up and then fail as a business, the building would very likely be heavily contaminated with lead, rendering it unfit for other uses and a liability. So it would be appropriate to require adequate bonding to cover this eventuality.

Yours very truly,

Alan Muller
Alan Muller
Energy & Environmental Consulting
Red Wing, MN
Port Penn, DE

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