The frustration over the devastation and loss borne of the Christine Lake Fire, caused by shooters at the Basalt gun range, is both valid and justified. However, those calling for the closure of the range as a means of preventing future incidents should consider a few of the following points.
Rather than discouraging people from wanting to target-shoot, gun range closures will likely disperse gun owners into public lands and forests where, with some exceptions, shooting is legal. Unofficial, dispersed “shooting ranges” are often littered with trash and wholly lack typical safety protocols. The Wolcott Fire was started June 9th at one such “range.” Having driven by there many times, it isn’t uncommon to see shot-up appliances, abandoned targets, and shell casings littering the ground. The very status of the range as unofficial may have caused those responsible for igniting that fire to flee the scene without alerting authorities.
Additionally, properly managed ranges provide a place for hunters to practice their marksmanship and sight-in their rifles in a safe, controlled environment, enabling them to harvest game more accurately and, in turn, more humanely.
While we will not be able to completely prevent people from partaking in behavior that puts our community at risk, we can mitigate risks associated with firearm-use by providing spaces which promote education and the enforcement of safe practices.