Steve Skinner

I'm glad I'm not a kid. We've failed our youth. By presenting endless bickering and contradictions to common sense our society has created a minefield where truth is on a sliding scale, greed rules, common sense is vilified and love and compassion are fads.

This can be applied to almost anything: guns, environment, business, health, military, education, etc.

It looks like the two kids that started the Lake Christine Fire are going to get away with it. When it came down to public hearings about the shooting range, gun enthusiasts outnumbered those who wanted to talk about making some changes.

The result: Most locals would rather have a gun range with paper thin restrictions than have a town. I know, the gun range was there first, so Basalt is apparently stuck with it, the way it is and has always been, in perpetuity. No changes. Change means they are coming for our guns.

Looking at the case against the suspects that started the fire that almost brought down the town reveals that they were not to blame. There was no official rule posted about the fire ban in Eagle County as it related to the range and there was no official sign saying the tracer rounds were not allowed. Common sense dictates these things but common sense is not required to go to Basalt and shoot.

There's an unofficial sign at the range that offers many common sense parameters for safely using the gun range. But there's no way to sign in and say you've seen the regulations before you proceed. There are more restrictions on floating a small raft down any local river than there are surrounding firearms.

I've had uniformed authorities in bullet-proof vests with loaded sidearms check to see that I had a food strainer and check my repair glue viscosity before letting me float down the Green River after getting a rare permit and paying hundreds for the privilege, all only after signing off on pages of rules and restrictions. Sometimes I feel like the government is coming for our boats.

But with guns, for some reason it's out of the question to make any changes or even talk about it. A shame, because there's a lot of room between unrestricted mayhem and “they're coming to take our guns.”

You see, the unofficial sign is brilliant and it speaks to the obvious courtesies and safety measures that come with blasting off guns at the range. If everyone followed the common sense sign everything would be fine, but not everyone does, so the sign has no teeth, and in a court of law it means nothing. So the perpetrators can simply say they didn't know or understand and the argument is over.

The bottom line is that until people with guns agree to some common sense guidelines, it's up to the gun enthusiasts to police their own. They are responsible for kids blowing off tracer rounds at the Lake Christine Range during a fire ban. Gun owners who vehemently oppose common sense regulation and offer no solutions while hiding behind the obscure outdated language of the Second Amendment are responsible when misguided children go and kill their classmates and teachers, brothers, mothers and sisters using weapons of war. Gun owners are self regulating, and it could be argued that it's not working. Too many accidents, deaths and mishaps.

If this keeps up, adult supervision is inevitable. Just like rafting the rivers. When boaters got out of hand, enforcement became necessary. Permits. Rules. Officers. Laws. Restrictions. Lots of people were common sense boaters but some not so much.

The gun range was in Basalt before many of the people and many of the houses and neighborhoods sprung up. Maybe the range is stuck there, grandfathered in and there's nothing that people can do to change it.

An incessant pop, pop, pop fills the air of Basalt from one end of town to the other every day to remind residents of their Second Amendment rights. And every once in a while something like the Lake Christine Fire or something worse comes along to remind us of what's most important: the right to bear arms without restriction.

Steve Skinner notes that fireworks were for sale in Garfield County while the fire ban was restricting them. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.